In January 2002, the first prisoners arrived at Guantánamo Bay Detention Center. Since then, there has been a systematic effort to deprive these detainees of even the most basic legal rights, and strand them in permanent legal no-man’s land.
President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law on December 31, 2011. The NDAA contains provisions that could allow indefinite and arbitrary military detention, without a trial or day in court, of anyone accused of any “belligerent act” or terror-related offense—including “material support” allegations based strictly on speech or association. It essentially subjects everyone within the US (including citizens, legal residents, and visitors) to the same lawless standards at work in Guantánamo Bay.
The NDAA subjects these individuals to arbitrary detention without trial, denying the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process and Sixth Amendment rights to challenge evidence and confront one’s accusers. The NDAA also endangers First and Fourth Amendment rights, because the PATRIOT Act expanded the definition of “material support for terrorism” to include crimes of speech and association even by defendants who neither committed nor ever intended to support violence.
One of the most effective ways to keep public attention on due process is to organize support for local statements or resolutions opposing military detention and supporting the right to trial.
Defending Rights & Dissent has drafted a resolution that gives any city or town the opportunity to raise its voice in defense of due process and the right to trial.
After 43 years, Albert Woodfox, the longest-standing American held in solitary confinement, has been released. The Supreme Court has found that Eighth Amendment applies to the treatment of prisoners and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division has stated that solitary confinement of prisoners with mental illness or disability violates the Eighth Amendment. However, it to difficult to argue that solitary confinement in general does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.”
In March the DC Circuit Court heard a case challenging the use of “Communications Management Units” in federal prisons. CMUs have been described as “Guantanamo North” and severely restrict the communications of the individuals held in them. Read more about the case and its implications.
Officials at Guantanamo have claimed that their force feeding is humane and the inmates are lying. But there is video evidence of the cruel and abusive treatment of prisoners on hunger strike, which advocates, led by the British human rights group Reprieve, have been fighting to make public. Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the release of the videos over a year ago, but the Administration has stonewalled.