US to hold 50 Guantanamo prisoners indefinitely

Published on WSWS, by Barry Grey, 23 January 2010.

The US Justice Department has determined that nearly 50 of the remaining 196 detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are to be held indefinitely, without charges or trial, according to a front-page article published Friday by the Washington Post.

The Post reports that the decision is the result of a case-by-case review of the remaining Guantanamo prisoners by a Justice Department-led task force set up by President Obama last year. The detainees have been held under barbaric conditions and subjected to torture, most of them languishing in the prison camp for eight years. The Post report cites unnamed administration officials, who spoke of the task force’s conclusions in advance of the public release of its report …  

… Of the 110 who are deemed eligible for release, 60 are Yemenis. Since Obama indefinitely suspended the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to Yemen after the attempted Christmas Day airliner attack, these detainees have no prospect of release for the foreseeable future. That leaves only fifty whom the government is preparing to repatriate over the next few months.

Even their release is contingent on “variables,” an administration official told the Post, including “a changed security situation in a proposed transfer state.”

The administration claims that all of the detainees have the right to challenge their incarceration in habeas corpus proceedings in federal court. However, the US appeals court which has jurisdiction over all such cases, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, earlier this month issued a sweeping ruling making it all but impossible for detainees being held as “alien unprivileged enemy belligerents” to prevail in such suits.

The appeals court upheld the Obama administration in opposing the release of Ghaleb Nassar al-Bihani, a Yemeni citizen who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since early 2002. In its ruling, the court declared that presidential power to jail alleged terrorists is not limited by international law, and that Guantanamo detainees who seek to contest the legality of their incarceration are not entitled to the constitutional guarantees and legal norms afforded to defendants in criminal cases.

The focus of the government and the media on the remaining Guantanamo detainees obscures the fact that a far larger group of alleged “enemy belligerents” are being held without charge or trial, under, if anything, even more brutal conditions at the US military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Last week, the Pentagon, in compliance with a Freedom of Information request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, released a redacted list of 645 people being held at the prison.

A McClatchy newspapers investigative report revealed that many of the Bagram prisoners were civilians who were arrested based on false information. (full long text).

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