Opinion | Columnists

EU should not let US off the hook

The voice of wisdom is finally heard loud and clear from Austria. The protest by the 25-nation EU against illegal detention camps at Guantanamo Bay was strong enough to shake the stubborn US policy on its infamous incarceration centres in Cuba.

  • By Duraid Al Baik, Foreign Editor
  • Published: 00:00 June 26, 2006
  • Gulf News

The voice of wisdom is finally heard loud and clear from Austria. The protest by the 25-nation European Union (EU) against illegal detention camps at Guantanamo Bay was strong enough to shake the stubborn US policy on its infamous incarceration centres in Cuba.

The EU should continue to exert pressure on the US not only to close down the detention camps at Guantanamo, but also to reconsider its viewpoint on other critical issues in the world, including its unilateral management of international crisis that has resulted in a number of serious setbacks to human rights.

Guantanamo detention camps, atrocities at Abu Ghraib and support to the new Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert who is committing cold-blooded crimes against innocent children and civilians in Palestine in addition to proping up unpopular regimes around the world are just a few examples of Washington's reckless attitude towards human rights. Such tendencies need to be scrutinised and revised by the international community to curb and avoid miseries, such as the one in Guantanamo, from unfolding in the future.

Bully

The US cannot continue to act as a bully while deliberating on international issues. Such an attitude would endanger not only US interests, but the security of the world as a whole.

The EU standpoint, which has become rather stronger than it was expected, could help in recovering some of the values and ethics that we human beings thought for sometimes have become part of the achievements and traditions of humanity in the modern world. But, such a victory will live short if no mechanism is created to monitor and prosecute human rights violations.

Last week, for the first time since the detention camps were opened in 2002, the EU told US President, George W. Bush, in no uncertain terms that he should close down Guantanamo and respect America's international obligations in this regard. This is definitely a great step forward to correct the situation at Guantanamo, but the lessons derived from the notorious detention centre should encourage the world, including the EU, to do more so that the atrocities are not repeated in a different form and at a different location.

It took the US almost five years to admit that holding 600 people in Guantanamo did not make the world safer. For the first time since the issue of Guantanamo was raised, Bush started to ponder over the voice of reasoning and showed his willingness to close down the detention camps. No doubt it was just short of an official apology, but he was still looking for a face-saving formula.

Bush is still talking about how to close Guantanamo without sacrificing the safety of the world. However, he failed to mention that so far, nothing has happened after he had released more than 140 people from Guantanamo who the US claimed had "'terrorist" links.

Much of the remaining inmates too fall in the same category and incarcerating them without any trial is a violation of their fundamental human rights. Furthermore, although the US administration has, so far, failed to establish prima facie evidence of criminal intent, it is still holding the detainees in Guantanamo.

The international community must invent a system to stop individuals and administrations to play with human rights. Such rights should remain sacred and protected by every human being on Earth.

Hundreds of people, including children and the elderly, were detained and tortured in blatant violation of the Geneva Convention. However, the US has unilaterally decided that the convention does not apply to alleged terrorists!

It took the EU the death of three Guantanamo detainees last week, which the US claimed committed suicide, to muster courage and exert pressure on the US to change its ideology at its detention centre in Cuba.

Other issues

Thankfully, the incident awakened the European conscience from its deep slumber. It would be great if the momentum generated by the EU against Guantanamo continues to resolve the other messy issues in the world.

It is true that sometimes governments and people fear to take a strong stand against a bullying power. However there should be no fear especially if the issue is related to basic human rights, such as Guantanamo.

Human rights are international human achievements that should not be subjected to veto by any power in the world.

Gulf News
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