According to a recent report by The Associated Press, the U.S. government plans to release about 100 of the people it is holding at a detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The story cited an anonymous government source as saying that the government would have two rounds of prisoner releases – in December and January.
United States forces are currently holding about 660 people at Guantanamo Bay, none of whom have been charged with a crime or given access to lawyers. The prisoners, or “detainees,” come from 44 different countries, but military spokespeople are mum on how the numbers are distributed.
It is always troublesome for a government to haul prisoners off to foreign prison camps and hold them incommunicado. It is the type of behavior that could cause a tense diplomatic crisis were another nation to treat our citizens in such a way.
It becomes even more troublesome and difficult to rationalize when we consider that some of those being held are children. According to one military source in the AP article, the government has plans to transfer the three youngest children at the prison camp – ranging in age from 13 to 15.
Military officials claim that they have kept the children separated from the general adult population, but since no one from the outside has been granted access to the prisoners, we have no way of know whether that is the case.
Earlier reports have stated that many of the detainees face probable criminal charges if and when they are returned to their countries of origin. However, some legal experts have said the United States’ behavior has jeopardized the cases against them. After all, they have been held in harsh conditions and without access to lawyers.
The military’s actions would not pass muster in our court system and they should be held up to question by the nations whose citizens we have been holding for years now.
When our government behaves with such secretiveness, it becomes difficult to defend. We would like to think there are good reasons for each of the people being held at Guantanamo Bay, but it seems more likely with each passing day that their continuing detention is simply something the government wants to end.
The problem is that it still refuses to do so.
If any of the hundreds of foreign citizens being held in our military prison have broken laws – here or in their native nations – they should be prosecuted for those crimes. If they have not, they should be returned. Immediately.
Their detention is an embarrassment to a nation that prides itself on the rule of law and the importance of freedom.