By Saswat Pattanayak
It’s only fair that the ironies played out once again.
The Guantanamo Bay is just one of the contradictions. The “land of the free” after 200 years of systematic discriminations and unjust warfare that continues even to this day, has shined at the Bay.
Over 9,500 US troops are stationed in this sole U.S. base on a Communist soil. And the detainees are not told whether they are to be treated as prisoners of war, or common criminals.
Cuban President Castro has refused to view the American lease on Cuban land as legitimate. Yet, the prisoners (some of whom were handed over by Afghan tribesmen in exchange of cash) from Camp X-Ray, Camp Delta and Camp Echo are dumped on this land for confinement. The tortures of the prisoners would have never come to light unless some European detainees were to speak! Hence, when three British prisoners released in 2004 without charge deliberated on the atrocities committed by US troops in forms of torture, sexual acts, forced drugging and religious persecution it got some coverage, however scant. They also accused the British authorities of turning blind eye to the situation of which they were well aware. The 115 page dossier has been subsequently supported by French, Swedish and Australian prisoners too.
In this round of irony, although the sovereignty of Guantanamo Bay resides with Cuba eventually, the exclusive control over it rests with US. And naturally enough the prisoners who have no access to press conferences are forever struggling with their fates.
A 1903 declaration between The Republic of Cuba and US stated that the land, among others, was to be leased to US “for the time required for the purposes of coaling and naval stations, the areas of land and water situated in the Island of Cuba.” Many things have of course changed over the course of time, including the revolution led by Castro. But the terms still apply as it is and unilateral disagreement is not proving fruitful. And the area is being used for the purpose of detaining political prisoners.
In the meantime the tortures continue as though it were normal. In the most recent incident, the official report reads that 52 detainees are on hunger strike against the treatments they are being meted out with.
And the story could be framed by the media only after two weeks of their hunger strikes! The reality is that the strike started even before that. And the number was well over 100. One hundred people have been protesting non-violently with hunger strikes against the continued torture of an oppressive government, and its subjects who vote the leaders to power, do not even come to know of it until long after. Not mentioning the series of tortures over the years which have by far created protests of no significant nature.
What have the media roles been reduced to? Janet Jackson’s left breast, I am sure. In the era of the model human rights western democracy, the leaders cause illegal tortures not just inside but also outside their territories. Out of 562 prisoners, four have been charged of anything. Rest of them languish with web of tortures for no counts. This is called the Rule of Law!