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Berliner Zeitung, Germany

Guantanamo: Is Anyone Truly Innocent?


In the name of international law, every German government has uncompromisingly rejected the prison camp. But no one wanted to take in former detainees. Just to stay on the safe side. ... These men committed no crimes, but who can guarantee that they won't?


By Christian Bommarius



Translated By Stephanie Martin


January 12, 2012


Germany - Berliner Zeitung - Original Article (German)

Detainees await processing at Guantanamo in 2002: Closing the facility has turned out to be a lot harder than opening it, with allies hesitant to accept released detainees and the U.S. Congress unwilling to allow released detainees onto U.S. territory - even if deemed 'not dangerous.'


BBC NEWS VIDEO: Camp commander says Guantanamo 'fighting war on terror', Sept. 9, 2011, 00:02:45RealVideo

In the battle against that blight on civilization, that symbol of abuse by the state, i.e.: the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo, Germany can be outdone by no one. For ten years now, the struggle has surged to and fro, but one thing could always be relied on: Every [German] administration of every stripe has rejected the camp in the name of international law, periodically advising the U.S. government to refrain from resorting to torture and arbitrary arrest. Among critics of the camp, Germany stands out as one of the biggest.


It may be that German criticism seemed muted at first. But when it became clear at the beginning of 2002 that the detention of over 1,000 alleged terrorists as "unlawful combatants" was neither in accord with the U.S. Constitution nor applicable international law, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) expressed his conviction that the U.S. would strictly adhere to the U.S. Constitution and international law.


Four years later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) went on her inaugural visit to then-U.S. President George W. Bush saying: “An institution like Guantanamo cannot and should not exist in the long term. Different ways and means must be found for dealing with the prisoners.” Who would have thought then that these words, spoken in the spirit of humanitarianism, would put Germany’s security almost unbearably at risk?


That is what occurred after U.S. President Barack Obama announced his intention to close the camp and provide former detainees with a pathway to freedom, which was indeed a new way of dealing with a majority of prisoners. Germany correctly and immediately recognized the inherent dangers of this: Who can guarantee that people who weren’t terrorists when they were in custody don't become terrorists by the time they're released?


The Uyghurs were Never Suspected of Terrorism


So it goes without saying that resistance to accepting released Guantanamo detainees had already begun before Obama sent his request to the German government. After the U.S. president asked Germany to provide a home for Uyghur detainees, a kind of protest movement emerged, supported by a number of media outlets. The Uyghurs - members of the Muslim Turkic peoples living in Western China - were never suspected of terrorist activity. In fact, Europe’s largest Uyghur minority lives in Munich, where the city council agreed to accept 17 Uyghurs, several of whom were innocent and had already spent seven years at Guantanamo.   



Is anyone truly innocent? And didn’t China caution against accepting the Uyghurs, who it wanted to persecute as “terrorists?” It wasn’t until the last minute that Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) successfully averted the impending attack on German security. Accepting the Uyghurs, their lawyers admonished, was a humanitarian duty. But the legal basis for this was lacking, Schäuble responded. The danger was only diverted when the island nation of Palau finally agreed to accept the 17 Uyghurs. The president of Palau spoke of a “humanitarian gesture” and not the $200 million the U.S. paid.


Germany lost the battle against Guantanamo three times. But in the case of Murat Kurnaz, a Turk who grew up in Bremen who was illegally detained at Guantanamo from 2002 to 2006, you have to give Germany credit for yielding only after the most stubborn resistance. There were no charges against Kurnaz, but as said before, is anyone truly innocent? Is that stateless Palestinian innocent - who was never suspected of a crime but who was locked up at Guantanamo since January 2001?; or that Syrian, whose prisoner number happens to be known as (537) but not the reason he’s worn it for almost nine years? These men committed no crimes, but who can guarantee that they won't? Germany took them in regardless, and in doing so, the country surrendered to Guantanamo for the second and third time.




Die Zeit, Germany: Germany Must Accept U.S. Request on Detainees

Le Monde, France: U.S. May Promise Europe 'No More Guantanamos'

Estadao, Brazil: Obama Incapable of Ending 'Nightmare' of Guantanamo

Die Zeit, Germany: Germany Must Refuse U.S. on Guantanamo Prisoners

Die Zeit, Germany: Guantanamo: Obama Must 'Put an End to the Secrecy'

El Pais, Spain: Guantanamo Incompatible with Mr. Obama's Principles

Liberation, France: How Brave Americans Were Turned Into Torturers

NRC Handlesblad, Netherlands: Torture Has No Place in 'Shining City on a Hill'

Le Temps, Switzerland: Doing Evil in the Name of the Good

Izvestia, Russia: U.S. and Torture: For Mr. Obama, It's 'Hard to Be Gorby'

Publico, Spain: Torture Charges Filed Against Bush Legal Team; Judge Garzon Handles Case

Hurriyet, Turkey: Dick Cheney's Torture Logic is 'Deeply Offensive'

Die Tageszeitung, Germany: America and Torture: 'Just Following Orders'

Financial Times Deutschland, Germany: Obama: Inviting the Next Torture Scandal

Jornal de Noticias, Portugal: Poverty and Torture: Bush Has Company in Europe

Le Monde, France: 'Fussy' Rights Groups 'Wrong' to Be Impatient with Obama

Le Figaro, France: Obama's Moral Crusade: A Few Words of Caution

The Independent, U.K.: America Doesn't Need a Witch-Hunt

BBC News, U.K.: U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Calls CIA Exemption 'Illegal'

Ottawa Citizen, Canada: Torture the 'Chicago Way'

Toronto Star, Canada: Winking at CIA Abuse


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Germany’s fight against Guantanamo is nonetheless a success story. There is no danger of additional renditions of innocent prisoners. And yesterday the federal government's human rights commissioner, on the tenth anniversary of that blight on civilization, asked the U.S. government again to remove the camp.




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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US Jan. 14, 8:15pm]



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