Since January 2002, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has held hundreds of detainees without trial or any semblance of due process, in contravention of international law and the U.S. Constitution (which applies to both U.S. citizens and foreigners). There are currently 166 individuals imprisoned at Guantanamo, and not a single one of these has been afforded the rights of an impartial court. This implies that all detainees are being held at the whim of the executive, and it must be taken on good faith that a) the evidence being held is sufficient to assume their guilt, and b) indefinite imprisonment is a just punishment for their unconfirmed crimes.
What is most disturbing about this situation is the lawlessness this new system of justice allows. Out of the aforementioned 166, around half were cleared for release in 2009. Because of the lack of judicial oversight, they remain imprisoned. Additionally, while some prisoners have been granted trials with a military tribunal, these proceedings have been accused of violating the Nuremberg Principles, which were established in response to Nazi war crimes during World War II. Unjust regulations in the military courts, such as certain evidence being available to the prosecution but not the defense, contributes to the charade of justice being implemented at Guantanamo.
A complete lack of accountability at Gitmo has also had extremely deleterious effects on the treatment of prisoners. There have been numerous (and largely impossible to confirm) claims of torture by former detainees and outside observers, but in 2009 Susan J. Crawford admitted a detainee was subjected to torture during the Bush administration, and for this reason did not refer his case to the prosecution. This is as illegal as it is debased.
During the Bush years, there was memorably much protest over the existence of Guantanamo. Many self-proclaimed progressive and liberal writers and media personalities spent a lot of time covering the human rights abuses, while Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports slamming the prisoner treatment and utter disregard for justice. All of this was in an effort to shut the prison down. Unfortunately, now that another self-proclaimed liberal occupies the White House, much of this protest has been replaced with rationalization. An unprincipled, partisan group of Democrat apologists has been making excuses for Obama’s refusal to shut the prison down since January 20, 2009.
Over the past several centuries, citizens of the United States have decided the only way to confirm an individual’s guilt of a crime is in an impartial court of law, while granting said individual very specific rights. We have codified these rights in our Constitution, many of which are reiterated in international law treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, and our government is tasked with upholding these rights. To vest complete power in the executive to decide who to detain, who is guilty, and what their punishment should be is a desecration of our most basic principles. Those responsible, those that enable, and those that silently watch ought to be ashamed.