Monday, April 17, 2006

The trouble with Gitmo

Just a reminder of the sort of problems we've got with some of our prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and why confidence that all the prisoners there are fairly held is misplaced:

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from two Chinese Muslims who were mistakenly captured as enemy combatants more than four years ago and are still being held at the U.S. prison in Cuba.

The men's plight has posed a dilemma for the Bush administration and courts. Previously, a federal judge said the detention of the ethnic Uighurs in Guantanamo Bay is unlawful, but that there was nothing federal courts could do.

Lawyers for the two contend they should be released, something the Bush administration opposes unless they can go to a country other than the United States.

A year ago, the U.S. military decided that Abu Bakker Qassim and A'Del Abdu al-Hakim are not "enemy combatants" as first suspected after their 2001 arrests in Pakistan. They were captured and shipped to Guantanamo Bay along with hundreds of other suspected terrorists.

The U.S. government has been unable to find a country willing to accept the two men, along with other Uighurs. They cannot be returned to China because they likely will be tortured or killed.

So we screwed up, but we're still holding on to them. Not because of anything they've done, but because we don't want to release them in the United States and we can't find another country willing to take them.

It seems to me that this is a variation of the Pottery Barn rule. We screwed up, and thus we are responsible for fixing the mistake. It is unjust to compound our mistake by continuing to incarcerate men we admit are innocent. They should be released into the United States -- with compensation and reasonable supervision -- until we can find a country to take them.

The alternative is to consider them terrorists because of what they planned to do in China. But that would depend on the nature and extent of the evidence against them in that regard.

In any case, the limbo they are currently in is indefensible.

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