It is really disturbing what one hears about the treatment of those still held at Guantanamo Bay prison by the US. Although the exact number is disputed, it is clear that several dozen prisoners — the US Administration says about 40, while other sources according to the International Herald Tribune claim as many as 130 — have gone on hunger strike since February protesting against their indefinite detention and the legal limbo under which they are held.
It is even more disturbing to note that 86 Guantanamo prisoners have been cleared for release for sometime now. They continue, however, to be kept imprisoned, reportedly because of budgetary limitations the US Congress has placed on the Administration, and because of the search for countries other their own to receive them. This situation has to end soon, and the end should not be through the death or force-feeding (happening apparently in Guantanamo) of these human beings, who have rights as well as responsibilities under any rule of law system.
The US is a democracy not because its constitution or its authorities claim so. It is a democracy because its government generally respects the rule of law, internally at least, and its institutions and people are vigilant to push back and ensure that if there is any deviation. The application of law cannot exclude human beings because they are foreign nationals, have been accused of terrorism or are held in no-man’s land, as is Guantanamo.
If the US wants to retain its credibility in pushing for human rights and the rule of law internationally, it has to first apply it on its own territory and wherever else it is in effective control. Selective implementation of lofty principles only strengthens perceptions of double standards, leads to cynical rejection of human rights as a self-serving Western construction, undermines the global standing of the US itself, and eventually corrupts its internal democratic functioning.
Sparta, 13 April 2013