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Guantanamo Bay and Extrajudicial Detention

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The Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba was set up by the United States military, and it is currently in use to house people suspected of being Al-Qaeda or Taliban operatives, as well as housing those whose names have been cleared but who have yet to be relocated. The detainment camp has become a central point not only in the opposition to the Terror and Iraq wars, but as a highly controversial benchmark for the use of torture on prisoners.

The American military, whose responsibility was to the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, maintains that the said prisoners and suspects were not actually entitled protection under the Geneva Convention like other war prisoners and therefore most were held without trial and still in fact reside in the facility without having a trial date set. The American Criminal Law system dictates that all prisoners must only be held on strong suspicion of misconduct or crime and that each one of these must be taken into court and held to trial. The difference between this law and Guantanamo Bay, said the military, is that the latter is not on American soil and therefore different military-set laws apply.

The same response was given for the accusations of torture on prisoners residing in the naval base. The camp made headlines across the world when it was revealed that military personnel were using different methods of torture to try to extract information concerning terrorist plots from their prisoners. Following denial of the incidents, it was eventually determined that such practices had in fact occurred but that, again, the military felt it held precedent over American law due to the outlying position of the base.

Controversy has continued concerning the conduct of military personnel in the base and of course concerning the continuing unlawful practices according to American criminal law. Many prisoners remain without any real hope of trial and a large percentage of these are expected to remain indefinitely in the detention center. The international community is making an effort to reveal harsh and unlawful conditions of the naval base but so far very little has been done to change the circumstances concerning arrest and imprisonment of the captives. In many cases it remains unclear as to what suspicions were at work in the arrest in the first place, with only vague labels of ‘terrorism plot’ to justify the presence of any individual within the camp.

The Bush administration maintains that prisoners held in suspicion of their connection to the Taliban or Al-Qaeda are not subject to Geneva Convention international law because such law only applies to persons affiliated with an official nation; the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are no such formal entities on the international stage. To date, the Guantanamo Bay detention center continues to be used for the imprisonment of suspected dangerous terrorists and a very large percentage of the world population paying attention to the current political climate feel that the base is only used so that the American military might sidestep its obligations to international and American law.

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