Bishop Pates asks Hagel to review conditions at Guantanamo, close facility

Masked activists from Amnesty International dressed as Guantanamo Bay detainees protest in Belfast Northern Ireland ahead of the Group of Eight Summit in mid-June. (CNS/Reuters)

Masked activists from Amnesty International dressed as Guantanamo Bay detainees protest in Belfast Northern Ireland ahead of the Group of Eight Summit in mid-June. (CNS/Reuters)

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, says it’s time to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, as President Barack Obama has pledged.

Writing to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel June 25, Bishop Pates said detainees in the prison, some held without charges for up to 11 years, have basic human rights that must be upheld.

“I write to express my concern over the situation of detainees in Guantanamo Bay,” Bishops Pates wrote. Citing media reports of a continuing 140-day hunger strike by some of the 166 detainees, the bishop said the protest appears to stem in part from the fact that 86 of the men being held were cleared for release in 2010, “but remain confined in Guantanamo.”

The letter raised questions about the practice of “shackling and strapping down” some of the strikers to force feed them through a nose tube, a practice that the International Committee of the Red Cross has opposed.

“Rather than resorting to such measures, our nation should first do everything it can to address the conditions of despair that led to this protest,” Bishop Pates said.

“Detainees have a right to a just and fair trial held in a timely manner. For at least 86 detainees ‘a crime has not first been proven.’ The indefinite detention of detainees is not only injurious to those individuals, it also wounds the moral reputation of our nation, compromises our commitment to the rule of law and undermines out struggle against terrorism,” the letter said.

The letter was sent on the eve of the U.N. International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Catholic News Service’s Washington Letter this week will offer a review of the situation in Guantanamo and efforts to close the prison.

7 Responses

  1. Bishop Pates ought first to review the living conditions of these terrorists who were caught being terrorists. They are being accommodated much more generously than they ought to be.

    What terrorists and the Left in general appreciate is having someone go to bat for them whose feelings overrule their reason–which pretty accurately describes leftists in general.

  2. 86 cleared for release but not released. Anyone care to explain the circumstances behind that?

  3. Mr. Lamers should realize that that the issue of the prisoner’s “living conditions” is secondary to the fact that these are human beings who have been incarcerated for years and have no idea what their penalty will be. Due process is part of the American tradiion, not a ‘”leftist” fabrication. Ralph G Conte.

  4. Mr Conte, I suggest that our Constitutional rights apply to our citizens, not to enemy combatants caught on a foreign field. “Due process” does not apply to such. Poor souls not knowing what their penalty will be! What say you about their overt attempts to kill and destroy “the infidels” and destroy Western civilization and countries? The fabrication by the leftists is making assumptions as to the application of the Constitution. These same leftists, by the way, would do away altogether with the Constitution, and they count Justice Ginsberg among their numbers by her own words spoken in Egypt not long ago.

    I repeat: Emotion in some quarters is dominant over reason.

  5. The Taliban has offered to exchange an American Soldier for 5 of their top commanders detained at Guantanamo. I invite those interested in peace and justice to revisit what happened at a certain soccer field in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

  6. Just to remind you, a few words from a Reuters story of what occurred at the Kabul soccer stadium under Talban rule:

    …”The goalposts, where the black-turbaned Taliban used to force convicts to kneel before executing them or from which they hung the severed arms or legs of thieves for all to see, have been given a fresh coat of white paint…But try as they might, few Afghans can put behind them the brutality of the Taliban years when men, and sometimes cowering women in their pale blue, all-enveloping burqas, were brought into the stadium to be either stoned or shot dead at close range.

    Others had limbs amputated for crimes ranging from robbery to adultery and murder.

    The stands would be full of people, including children, either coming of their own volition or brought in to witness how the Taliban enforced its version of justice.

    “Now nobody comes here in the evening, even we don’t go inside,” says Nabeel Qari, a young guard at the entrance to the stadium. “Everyone believes the place is haunted, that the souls of the dead people are not at rest even now.”

    This scene must generate a call of “NEVER AGAIN!” and that means detaining some of those at Guantanamo for “as long as it takes”.

    Negotiations have begun with the Taliban but there is no agreement that things can never return to the image in the Reuters story. Nor is there an agreement that someone will supervise those detained at Guantanamo to prevent “AGAIN” from happening. As long as there are those who call for the unsupervised release of people who caused this horror, and would cause its return those souls cannot be at rest.

  7. Jim, thanks for assisting in throwing light on the subject. Consider, though, that there are many who can feel good about absolving every fiend of his crimes but can’t muster much sympathy for the victims. That’s also characteristic of political liberals.

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