Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

New Extremist Website Takes on Gitmo | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – The continuing incarceration of prisoners at Camp Delta , in Guantanamo Bay by the U.S military is one of the most infamous human rights cases of the twenty-first century. International institutions and non-governmental organizations have repeatedly raised a number of concerns on the alleged mistreatment of the prisoners held for three years without charge or trial for any crime.

Prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba hail from a number of countries and are represented by a group of U.S lawyers with the countries of origin financing the legal challenges. In addition, a number of international human rights groups who defend prisoners and campaign for fair treatment have been involved in the case.

On the internet, the latest website to defend the prisoners is “Release the captives”. According to its mission statement, the anonymous site is not affiliated with any group; its sole reason for being is to denounce the ongoing presence of prisoners of war at Camp Delta and call for their freedom.

The language and basic premise of this website are contradictory in that it wholeheartedly supports holy war as a basic tenant of Islam yet it believes combat is prohibited under international law. It also justifies its position on Camp Delta by referring to international treaties on the treatment of prisoners of war.

In its introduction, the website follows the logic of Islamist extremist groups who have committed terrorist acts. It says, “Our website comes at a time when the United States is engaged in a fierce campaign to control the Islamic world and forbid any dissenting views from emerging… As we become more powerful, the U.S is attacking us to kill our brethren and delay our awakening. So far, however, the violence has had the opposite effect; it has shown the world the evil racist U.S policies that applies democracy and human rights to its own people and withholds them from others.”

The website also suffers from a number of factual errors. For example, the timetable of the U.S occupation of Afghanistan has been shortened and the reasons behind the US campaign totally neglected. There is no mention of the attacks on U.S cities on September 11, 2001, which al Qaeda carried out. Instead, the website only mentions individuals held captive in Afghanistan.

Accordingly, the website was launched “to address these human rights violations and publicize the U.S aggression against our fellow countrymen who are engaged in jihad (holy struggle), relief work, education, and religious studies. Many were arrested and handed over to U.S forces, tortured and in some cases killed or flown to Guantanamo Bay where they still live in cages.”

An examination of the terminology adopted by the site reveals an extremist undercurrent. Supporters of this ideology tend to absolve themselves from all wrongdoing and blame the U.S for a number of ills, which aptly describe their own behavior: treason, disloyalty, and backwardness. Taking prisoners during wartime is a common practice yet the murder of innocents, as these extremists have do in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, is never acceptable. By targeting Muslims civilians instead of military forces, these Islamist militants broke all the rules of engagement.

In effect, the website condemns Camp Delta and other actions by the US military but does not offer any mechanism to release the prisoner or explain what some of these men were doing in Afghanistan towards the end of 2001.

For his part, a member of the legal team representing a Saudi prisoner said claims made on the website should be dismissed outright as personal opinions which do not represent detainees at Guantanamo. He indicated the lawyers obtained their information from official sources such as the Saudi Ministry of Interior, the U.S embassy, the Red Cross, and other organizations.

The United States government has been widely criticized for violating human rights in Camp Delta as captives have been subjected to cruel interrogation techniques and imprisoned without trial. So far, the U.S administration has refused to consider the men as prisoners of war, preferring to use the term enemy combatants instead which does not confer on the prisoners any rights as stipulated in the Geneva Convention. Some prisoners have spent over 1000 days in captivity, without being charged. The U.S maintains the men are al Qaeda fighters who were captured in a war zone.