The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday inmates of Guantanamo Bay have the right to access the court system. In their statement, the Court said that “a state of war is not a blank check for the president” and essentially sided with critics who had asked for this very action for more than two years.
The Court, however, did not tell the government how to fix the system to abide by the new guidelines. By waiting this long to give guaranteed civil rights to suspects, the government got stuck in its ways, and it will now be more complicated to overhaul the system than it needed to be.
For those who had been detained, they could not provide their families and friends with any information about their whereabouts, status or charges raised against them, let alone any indication about how long they would be held. The Red Cross also raised concerns about treatment of the prisoners at such facilities. After the scandals surrounding Abu Ghraib prison, a facility far less secretive than Guantanamo Bay and others, such questions raised need to be answered.
For the self-proclaimed country of the free to do this to people, no matter their status, is unacceptable, and it is time for such actions to stop.
The Bush administration has signaled they will abide to the new guidelines by forming military tribunals. It is doubtful how fair such trials will be in order to offer a fair court proceeding.
The way terrorism suspects are swallowed whole by the system without even the most basic of rights, is simply not acceptable. The New York Times recently published the accounts of a 47-year old Nepalese man, who was held for videotaping in Queens, NY. He was held three months in solitary confinement, even though the FBI agent who arrested him tried to convince officials he had made a mistake and there was no indication the imprisoned man had ties to terrorism.
When it takes this long for an innocent man to walk free there is clearly something wrong with the system. The Supreme Court decision is a step in the right direction, but it is doubtful it that will be the quick fix hundreds of incarcerated people are hoping for.
Until such violations of basic human rights are rectified the United States is standing on shaky moral ground and is undermining its effort to form an international movement to fight terrorism.