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Report: Faces of Guantanamo

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President Bush’s announcement of the transfer of so-called “high-value detainees” from secret CIA ghost detention sites to Guantánamo was a thinly-veiled attempt by the Administration to re-shape the image of Guantánamo – and the men detained there – in the face of widespread condemnation both at home and abroad. The Administration would like to re-claim that Guantánamo is holding “the worst of the worst” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The political debate and the media attention are focused on the way a small minority of suspects will be tried. Lost in the discussion is the matter of hundreds of men who have never been charged and will never be tried because there is no evidence justifying their continuing indefinite detention.

(See bottom of page to view or download the full report as a pdf)

It is the Administration’s position that these men can be imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial. The President would never be required to justify the legality of their detention, and these men would never be able to present their case and obtain a hearing before a court. Quite simply, the President’s mere assertion that executive detention is justified would be sufficient to lock someone up forever.

For the men at Guantánamo, the theory of their imprisonment - now in its fifth year for most of them - is that they were soldiers, technically, "enemy combatants." The "enemy combatant" definition in use exceeds what is permissible under the Geneva Conventions; and scores, perhaps hundreds of men do not fit even within its broad reach. In brief, they were not soldiers. They engaged in no hostilities. In the chaos of wartime, many in Afghanistan and Pakistan were sold for money or as part of tribal or local grievances; others were picked up far from any battlefield. Of the over 700 men held at Guantánamo since January 2002, more than 240 have been transferred or released to freedom. Of the men still detained, at least 140 are “cleared for release” by the U.S. Government. Many of these men, held on the flimsiest of evidence, were merely guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others have been denied access to evidence that potentially would exonerate them.

U.S. military personnel, and even the findings of the flawed tribunals at Guantánamo, have thoroughly discredited the Administration’s claims that Guantánamo detainees are the “worst of the worst.”

Detainees have been asking for the habeas hearings they were promised two years ago after the Supreme Court ruling in Rasul v. Bush. The refusal of the United States to provide real hearings to the detainees gravely injures our reputation and our ability to coordinate abroad the struggle against terrorism. By contrast, fair determinations by judges that persons still held are indeed combatants in ongoing wars will lend credibility to the nation's foreign policy. This report highlights just a few examples of detainees whose cases present clear evidence challenging their detention.

These men should never even have been brought into U.S. custody, and the lack of any fair process has forced them to languish, with no end date in sight.