The Jan. 3 editorial "The failure to close Guantanamo" rightly noted that the continued operation of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, undermines U.S. national security interests and commitments to justice. From a medical and human rights perspective, it is also unlawful and fundamentally inhumane. Indefinite detention inflicts profound mental and physical harm on detainees, who may already be suffering from the untreated health effects of torture. Lest we forget, 45 of the 55 men held at Guantanamo are not charged with any crime, and 19 have been cleared for release. The deep suffering and psychological burden of being held in such a state, in some cases for more than a decade, constitute ill treatment that can amount to torture.
Yes, Guantanamo must be shuttered, as the prison’s very existence violates human rights and humanitarian obligations under domestic and international law, and threatens the values and security of the United States. But simply closing the prison isn’t enough. Detainees must be safely resettled or repatriated, or transferred to the United States for timely prosecution in federal courts. The United States is responsible for the serious medical and psychological harm it has inflicted on those imprisoned at Guantanamo and elsewhere. It should start rectifying this wrong by ending their arbitrary, baseless and profoundly harmful detention.
Sarah Dougherty, Washington
The writer coordinates the U.S. Anti-Torture Program for Physicians for Human Rights.
The excellent editorial about our prison in Guantanamo Bay glossed over an important point. It referred to "two dozen [prisoners] who cannot be tried and are considered too dangerous to release." The reason they can't be tried is that the evidence against them is too weak for conviction. Nevertheless, the Guantanamo Review Task Force decided, in a classified environment, that they should not be released.
The Sixth Amendment says that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” No government official can decide otherwise; that sort of arbitrary behavior is precisely what our Constitution protects us from.
The Guantanamo prisoners don’t get a speedy trial because they are not U.S. citizens. But if the right to justice is so important that we enshrined it in our Constitution, why don’t we give justice, in the form of a speedy trial, to everyone? Then we could close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Stephen Lane, Bethesda