RW ONLINE: America's Camp Delta, Guantanamo
America's Camp Delta, Guantanamo
660 Prisoners, 42 countries: No Rights, No Charges
Revolutionary Worker #1214, October 5, 2003, posted at rwor.org
Camp Delta is a machinery for creating hopelessness and
despair. This prison sits high on a cliff in the U.S. naval
base at Guantánamo Bay. It is cut off from the rest of Cuba by
heavy fortification and rows of razor wire, and it is utterly
isolated from the world in every way.
Most of the prisoners here have lived for 19 months in
solitary confinement and sensory deprivation. Prisoners are
often bound and blindfolded. Their isolation in tiny 8x6 cells
is broken only by the area's banana rats and relentless
Prisoners are denied any news of the world and their
families. Their prayer mats pointedly say "Mecca 12,793
kilometers"--to press on them that they are far from home,
completely under the boot of their captors.
Shah Mohammad, a 23-year-old-Pakistani, is one of the 40
prisoners released from Guantánamo. He described how prisoners
are forced to take drugs (BBC, May 22): "They used to tell me I
was mad. I was given injections at least four or five times as
well as different tablets."
Under such conditions, there have been 30 suicide
attempts--including attempted hangings or cutting wrists on
razor wire. ( Miami Herald , Aug. 24, 2003) Prisoners
have reportedly also launched hunger strikes and other forms of
The U.S. command says the military holds 660 prisoners here
from 42 countries, speaking 17 different languages. No reporter
or lawyer has spoken to any prisoners. There is no public list
of names. Often their families don't know what happened to
Most of these captives are prisoners of war--seized during
the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. More keep coming--men
fingered for unknown reasons, kidnapped off the streets, often
tortured by U.S. agents and then turned over Guantánamo's
The Bush administration's billion war budget is passing
through Congress, and millions of that are spent expanding Camp
Delta and making it permanent. Kellogg, Brown & Root, a
company associated with Vice President Dick Cheney, brought in
work crews from India and the Philippines to build the "maximum
security" compounds surrounded by watchtowers and
Lawlessness of a Rogue
"It is a basic principle of international law that any
detainee has the right to test the lawfulness of his or her
detention in a court of law, By putting these detainees into a
legal black hole, the U.S. administration is supporting a world
where arbitrary unchallengeable detention becomes
International, March 12, 2003
Camp Delta makes a mockery of any claim by the U.S. to
respect "human rights" or "rule of law."
The prisoners there have never been charged. They have not
been allowed a chance to tell their story to the world. There
are no lawyers. There are no hearings and no appeals.
These prisoners are not "innocent until proven guilty"--fact
they are held guilty without proof.
Erwin Chemerinsky, a USC law professor who has joined a
lawsuit on behalf of the Guantánamo detainees, wrote in the
Los Angeles Times (March 25), "Several months ago,
top-level administration officials were quoted as saying they
knew many prisoners were being held in Guantánamo by mistake
because of inaccurate intelligence from foreign governments and
because of arrests made in the heat of battle. Therefore,
individuals continue to be held even though it is known that
they did not participate in terrorism and have no useful
Three of the prisoners are boys aged 13 to 15.
All of this is completely unjust--and also completely
illegal. There are international laws, including the Geneva
Accords, that govern the treatment of prisoners of war. It is
illegal to interrogate prisoners of war--who are only required
to give information like name and rank. It is illegal to
withhold the names of prisoners or hold them after the end of
the war they fought in.
The U.S. government responds by claiming that neither U.S.
nor international law apply to Camp Delta or the prisoners
there. They have created a place of absolute and arbitrary
power--with all the nightmarish cruelties and despair that such
power can create.
The court cases charging the U.S. government with violating
international and U.S. laws have, so far, simply been dismissed
or rejected using maddening legal double-talk.
First, the U.S. government claims Geneva Conventions don't
apply--they claim these captives are not really "prisoners of
war" but "enemy combatants." In fact, many of these men were
captured during war, fighting under the command of the Afghan
government, and are clearly prisoners of war. The Geneva
Accords establish that a "competent tribunal" must determine if
a person is a prisoner of war or an enemy combatant--but the
U.S. government has refused to comply. When court cases
challenged this in U.S. courts, the government claimed they had
no jurisdiction, and the judges agreed.
Second, the U.S. government claims that U.S. laws
also don't apply. A case filed in federal court argued that the
U.S. naval base at Guantánamo is, in fact, under U.S.
jurisdiction and U.S. laws should apply (as it has always done
in places like the Panama Canal Zone). On March 11, the DC
federal circuit court rejected that argument. With truly
Orwellian logic, this court upheld the U.S. government's claim
that it is not the U.S., but the Cuban government, that
is legally "sovereign" at Camp Delta.
This is a bizarre mockery of reality: Anyone with a brain
knows that Cuba's government has no "sovereignty" over this
base. Camp Delta would not exist for ten minutes if they did.
The Guantánamo base was stolen from Cuba at gunpoint, and Cuban
laws have never applied there because of the naked U.S.
This March 11 ruling merely rubberstamped the U.S.
government's move to create a legal "black hole" where the U.S.
can do whatever they want to the prisoners of Camp Delta
without any restraint by law. The ruling has been
appealed to the Supreme Court by the Center for Consti-
Meanwhile, many thousands of people are also being held in
U.S. military prison camps in Iraq-- their numbers, their
conditions and the charges they face are simply not known. And
even there in Iraq, the name "Guantánamo" is well
known--American officers report that when they pick up men and
boys in armored sweeps, they threaten to send them to
Guantánamo and watch fear cross the people's faces.
The Making of a Death
After almost two years of interrogating prisoners at
Guantánamo, the U.S. military authorities are admittedly
frustrated by the limited information they could force from
these prisoners--and so the Camp is being redesigned.
Step by step, the U.S. government intends to set up a "death
chamber" at Camp Delta, and a death row.
The first step of this process is the "military tribunals"
that the U.S. has threatened to use. On July 3, the Pentagon
announced that President Bush had designated six prisoners who
would be tried before military tribunals. They will be the
first to face the threat of execution. Two of the six are
British citizens and one is Australian. Their families are
seeking to make an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The
nationalities of the other three are not known. Decisions about
when to proceed will reportedly be made by Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who heads the military tribunal
The six prisoners will be condemned under tight security, in
the isolation of Guantánamo. Ordinary rules of evidence and
appeal don't apply. Lawyers "representing" the prisoners will
be under military discipline. Even acquittal in these
rigged tribunals doesn't mean what it usually means. William J.
Haynes II, the Pentagon's top lawyer, said: "If we had a trial
right this minute, it is conceivable that somebody could be
tried and acquitted of that charge but may not necessarily
automatically be released."
These are plans for kangaroo courts for the sole purpose of
starting to execute prisoners-- they are an insult to
justice and intended to further terrorize anyone who
falls into U.S. clutches.
Meanwhile, important voices have started to speak out
against these tribunals: Amnesty International responded to the
White House announcement by saying: "Any trial before these
military commissions would be a travesty of justice." Don
Rehkopf, a leading member of the National Association of
Criminal Defense Lawyers' military law committee, said, "It
would be unethical for any attorney to agree to the conditions
they've set. You have to agree to waive the attorney-client
privilege so that the government can monitor your
conversations. It's a total farce."
As we go to press, the U.S. government has announced that it
is investigating members of its own military for trying to leak
information about the prisoners of Camp Delta. Two have been
arrested so far, and one, Senior Airman Ahmad Al-Halabi, 24,
faces a possible death penalty for passing on information about
the Delta Camp prisoners to the Middle East. This includes
information that international law requires the U.S.
government to provide--yet now someone may face execution for
The arrests have thrown official Washington into a frenzy
over how to tighten secrecy around Camp Delta-- without
a visible hint of criticism about the gross violation of
justice and international norms that are going on there. Sen.
Charles Schumer, a prominent liberal Democrat from New York,
said, "It is both painful and baffling to have breaches at our
most guarded facility."
The fact is that the U.S. government wants to use Camp Delta
to terrify the world--and also wants to suppress the truth
about what they do there. They have dropped a veil of secrecy
over these prisoners while orchestrating shameless media
reports that "these prisoners never had it so good at home."
And they threaten to execute anyone, including their own
soldiers , who leaks news of the prisoners (which puts a
obvious threat over any defense lawyer who may participate in
future military tribunals!).
The U.S. government preaches to the world about its
so-called "values." America, we are told, is the beacon of
civilization, rule of law, freedom, and human rights. But
looking at Camp Delta, the world sees a different face. This is
a true "freedom-free" zone--a torture camp designed to strike
terror throughout an empire.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on
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