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helping to spread terrorism (fwd)
by Boris Stremlin
15 January 2002 15:38 UTC
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More on how disregard for international law helps us defeat terrorism...

From the Guardian (UK)

-- 
Legal double-standards are not the way to win a war
against terrorism


14 January 2002

Internal links

More Taliban prisoners flown to Cuba base 

American forces 'may be breaking PoW convention' 


One law for us and another for them has never been a
good maxim, either of justice or diplomacy. The case
against the treatment by the United States of alleged
al-Qa'ida terrorists is readily made by the fact that
John Walker, the US citizen who converted to Islam and
joined the jihad against his own country, will be
treated differently from  and better than  the
Afghans and nationals of assorted other countries now
settling in to the US military base in Cuba.

The current intention of George Bush's administration
is to bring the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay before
special military tribunals, which will allow them
fewer rights than normal courts (and even courts
martial) and which are manifestly designed to increase
the chance of convictions. While they wait, they will
be held in conditions which  even by the low
standards of US jails  seem primitive. Meanwhile, the
US authorities have said that Mr Walker, still being
held in Afghanistan, will be tried by US courts in the
US because he is a US citizen.

This double standard matters rather more than the
technical legal argument over whether the detainees
should be accorded prisoner-of-war status or whether
they are members of a new legal category  unlawful
combatants. This new label was invented for Donald
Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, to get him through
his news conferences last week. It is yet another
example of the folly of declaring war on terrorism,
for if prisoners are taken in this war, then surely
they are prisoners of war? But the point is, as was
put at the weekend by Donald Anderson, the chairman of
the Commons foreign affairs select committee, that,
"whatever the formal category, these prisoners still
have legal rights and what we've heard already
suggests that human rights are indeed being put in
jeopardy".
Sadly, the British Government has written a similar
double standard into its own legislation responding to
the horror of 11 September. The fact that one of the
first batch of 20 prisoners to be flown by the US to
Guantanamo Bay is a British national ought to give
pause for thought for even the most bone-headed
supporters of David Blunkett's anti-terrorism law in
this country. If this man had escaped back to Britain,
he would have all the rights which an
innocent-until-proved-guilty defendant has in our
judicial system. As it is, the Foreign Office is
reduced to asking plaintively for access and "seeking
reassurances on welfare and treatment". Equally, if Mr
Walker came into British hands, Mr Blunkett would be
able to detain him, as a foreigner, indefinitely,
under a special judicial system requiring a lower
burden of proof of guilt. The difference between our
special justice for foreigners and America's being
that we will not execute them.

This is an effective way to fight a war against
terrorists  and those whom the intelligence agencies
think are terrorists  but it is no way to wage an
effective campaign against terrorism. Not only are
such double standards offensive in themselves, but
they spread like a virus around the world and erode
the rights of those feeling the sharp edge of state
power under regimes less sensitive to human rights and
their legal protections. Israel, India, Russia and
Zimbabwe are only four states which have used the
rhetoric of the war against terrorism for repressive
internal purposes.

An effective campaign against terrorism requires the
support, not just of Arab and Muslim countries, but of
many other countries in the developing world which are
quick to sniff out Western hypocrisy. If the alleged
terrorists detained in Guantanamo Bay are denied
democratic standards of justice or treated inhumanely,
that campaign will be seriously damaged. 

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