Excerpt #2Excerpt from Guantánamo
RAY: In its current incarnation, what is Guantánamo Bay naval station, in fact?
RATNER: Guantánamo is something vastly different from what the average American would think of as a prison. Guantánamo is a twenty-first century Pentagon experiment that was, in fact, outlawed by the Geneva Conventions of 1949. It is similar in purpose to the German World War II operations, that led to the ban: It is an interrogation camp, and interrogation camps are completely and flatly illegal.
Guantánamo has provided an opportunity for the U.S. government to hold people outside any legal or moral system, with no access to lawyers, or contact with family, in dehumanizing isolation, and subject to physical duress, psychological manipulation, and in some cases conduct that may amount to torture. The detainees have no means of asserting their innocence and no means of testing their detentions in any court. In the case that the Center for Constitutional Rights brought, the lower federal courts ruled that the detainees had no right to file a writ of habeas corpus.
RAY: Before we go further, perhaps you should explain just what a writ of habeas corpus is.
RATNER: This is essentially a request to a court to order an official under whose authority a person is being detained to bring that prisoner before the court in order to justify the lawfulness of that detention to the court. It has been a hallmark of Angle-American law dating back to the seventeenth century, when some British officials were sending prisoners to remote islands and military bases to prevent any judicial inquiry into their imprisonment. Parliament passed the Habeas Corpus Act to prohibit this practice of offshore penal colonies beyond the reach of the law--precisely the practice the Bush administration has revived.
RAY: What purpose does Guantánamo serve?
RATNER: Guantánamo’s purpose is to break down the human personalities of the detainees in order to coerce from them whatever their captors want, to get them to confess to anything, to implicate anyone. Guantánamo is a prison where cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment, even torture is practiced, and it is utterly illegal.
That is what Guantánamo is and has been for almost three years. The U.S. government admits it is an interrogation camp, though it denies torture is used there. However, the administration admits to using techniques that legally constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, which is prohibited under law. Interrogation is why the U.S. administration is depriving all these people of any legal or human rights, why it shaves their heads and keeps them in cages, why they have no access to their families, why in many cases their families may not even know if they are dead or alive.