Guilty until proven innocent

Six point eight by eight-foot cage. Half the space taken up by a metal bed. Two 15-minute shower and exercise sessions per week. Belly chains and leg shackles. Fierce tropical heat. No air conditioning.

Take a minute to imagine yourself in these conditions. Now wipe the sweat off your brow and pray that you don’t have nightmares.

According to the Los Angeles Times, these are the conditions that the prisoners held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have to go through.

The “War On Terror” continues. The Bush administration’s fight against Islamic insurgents in Iraq, Al-Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan, and the Abu-Sayaff militants in the Philippines goes on in its quest to rid the world of those individuals who take glory in spilling the blood of innocents in the name of religion.

The “War of Terror,” its silent but deadly partner, accompanies it side by side. The terrorists in this war are those trying to rid the world of what they do themselves.

As stated by many news sources, about 10 percent of the 625 detainees that are held in Guantanamo Bay by the U.S. have no connection with the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. But yet, they, along with others members of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, many of whom were conscripted in the Islamic militia by force, suffer.

Isn’t there some way to stop this? As maintained by U.S. authorities, there isn’t. The Geneva Convention does not apply to these prisoners because they are not prisoners of war. Rather, they are enemy combatants who can be held indefinitely without trial.

Does this alternative classification mean that they are not to be treated as humans?

The treatment of these prisoners is a gross violation of civil rights.

On top of this, none of them have so far been charged with any crimes or been given attorneys to defend themselves, meaning they have no legal means to challenge their captivity.

The families of the prisoners who went to court had their first appeal rejected by a U.S. federal appeals court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two appeals over whether hundreds of terrorist suspects in secret custody are being held unlawfully. A ruling is expected in May of 2004.

Until then, these prisoners will languish in their jail cells under these brutal conditions.

Yawar Herekar