Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, March 30, 2007

  Bisher al-Rawi to be released from Guantanamo

The British Foreign Secretary told Parliament on Thursday that Bisher al-Rawi will be released from the Guantanamo Bay gulag and sent back to Britain. He's been held in monstrous conditions there for four years, and before that at the Baghram Air Force base in Afghanistan, where he states he was tortured. Although he has been declared an 'unlawful enemy combatant' by a Guantanamo tribunal, like nearly all prisoners there he's never been charged and put on trial. His release is an admission that Bisher al-Rawi was guilty of nothing. Rather than being proven a terrorist, "the worst of the worst" as Bush and Cheney frequently claim, he was instead terrorized by the US government.

For four long years.

So who will pay for this injustice? Will the CIA face trial for kidnapping? Will the Army be forced in open court to state precisely how it has been treating these prisoners? Will George W. Bush be removed from office for violating human rights, the Geneva Conventions, US law, and everything that is decent?

Or will Americans pretend that justice has now been served by al-Rawi's release? After four long years?

Or will Americans pretend that justice cannot be served, not against our government, not ever?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI've written before about this unfortunate man's case. It seems that he once cooperated with MI5 as it investigated a Muslim cleric living in London, Abu Qatada. After Bisher al-Rawi refused to cooperate further with MI5, the British government encouraged the CIA to pick him up while he was abroad, in Gambia, on a business trip. The CIA threatened to abuse him if he did not agree to resume cooperation, and when he again refused, he was dragged off to be tortured first in Baghram, and then in Guantanamo.

I've seen enough of the documentation from his case, sent to me by one of al-Rawi's lawyers (George Brent Mickum), to be able to conclude that his capture and detention were grossly unjust from the start.

However the details of his circumstances should not obscure the more basic point that there are hundreds of others who've been victimized, enslaved, in this system of gulags. And whether any of these had any connections to terrorist organizations, or none at all, is beside the point now. For they've all been held in degrading conditions. They've been mistreated, and most or all have been tortured in one way or another. The US government, then, continues to defile itself by holding these men in captivity. It has no right any longer, if it ever did, to detain these men. These men have been enslaved, and manumitting one of them does not diminish in any degree the culpability of the Bush administration.

Indeed, the release of Bisher al-Rawi looks to be an effort to stave off scrutiny of one of the most outlandish cases of kidnapping by the CIA. As The Independent reports:

Zachary Katznelson, a lawyer for the UK-based charity Reprieve, who has represented the residents during their detention...said he thought the decision to help Mr Rawi was only taken because the Government did not want an embarrassing court case in which Britain's involvement in his capture would have been made public.

The High Court in London has already permitted the disclosure of classified documents linking MI5 to Mr Rawi's arrest.

Mr Katznelson said: "Mr Rawi helped MI5 as an interpreter and acted as a go-between with Abu Qatada [a terror suspect later arrested and detained by the British authorities]. All this would have... been very embarrassing for the government and... MI5."


The Guardian adds:

Bisher al-Rawi's lawyer, Zachary Katznelson, who has visited him in Guantánamo on behalf of the campaign group Reprieve, said that his client's treatment amounted to torture. "We are grateful for British government efforts to secure Bisher's release from the black hole of Guantánamo Bay. However, the British government's job is not done. Nine other British residents remain," he said.

"All but one are kept in constant isolation, living in six by eight foot steel cells, with no windows and unrelenting electric light. One has been on hunger strike for over 100 days - tied down and force-fed twice a day. None of them are charged with a crime. Not one has had a trial."

Edward Davey, Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton, said: "Bisher al-Rawi is not and has never been a threat to national or international security. His case should be a lesson to us all that when you ignore natural justice, injustice follows."


Our job as American citizens is not done either. Detainee # 902 has been released from Guantanamo at long last. But the marks of injustice, abuse, torture will cling to the nation like a tatoo we may never efface.

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