The Persistent Scandal

For nearly 20 years, the United States has been running the inhumane Guantanamo Bay detention center. It’s high time for President Joe Biden to eradicate this blight.

Joe Biden recently said that he didn’t want to bequeath the war in Afghanistan to a fifth U.S. president. That was his explanation for sticking to the deadline for the troop withdrawal. As grave as the consequences of this decision might be, it would be good if Biden displayed the same level of determination with regard to the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

For nearly 20 years, the prison there has existed as a permanent blight, a constant reminder that the supposedly represented Western values of constitutionalism and human rights are not adhered to when it really matters.

The recently initiated military trial against one Indonesian and two Malaysian prisoners illustrates this. After 18 years of imprisonment without charges, after being tortured several times during CIA detention, they will now be tried for their alleged involvement in the brutal 2002 bombings in Bali and Jakarta. Prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges are all employees of the Pentagon. Testimonies under torture, no impartial judiciary — this trial has nothing to do with the rule of law.

The only legally prudent solution would be to immediately dismiss the proceedings, release and indemnify the defendants as well as all the other current Guantanamo detainees. This would possibly lead to the release of people who committed very serious crimes; a bad result, no question. But with its conduct, the United States itself has ensured that there can be no justice for the victims of terror.

This ending to the scandal would be quite painful — similar to the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Nonetheless, it is the only way to finally close this dark chapter of the CIA’s secret prisons, the years-long solitary confinement and torture. With this demonstration of a willingness to repent instead of a dubious conviction, the U.S. would do a service to itself and the world. However, Biden will likely lack the courage to do so.

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