As a nation we have found it rather difficult to deny that our country has committed serious human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay. But most of us have little idea what has really happened there, and most of us would be astounded to know the things the government is trying so hard to hide from us.
On April 15th, Amnesty International’s MSU chapter hosted a dinner at the Hannah Community Center focused around the human rights issues of Guantanamo Bay. The main speaker, Joshua Denbeaux, is a lawyer who has been working on behalf of two detainees, and, along with his father, he leads the legal world in defending the rights of the detainees. In 2006, they wrote five studies regarding the treatment of Guantanamo detainees based on extensive research.
The dinner opened with an introduction from Reuben Metreger, the State Legislative Coordinator for Amnesty International in Michigan. While condemning the violations at Guantanamo and discussing Amnesty International’s unwavering support for human rights, he offered comic relief, cracking jokes about a quote from Dick Cheney that urged the U.S. to go over to the dark side. A 30-minute video on torture at Guanatanamo, Torture on Trial, was subsequently screened to lead into Mr. Denbeaux.
Mr. Denbeaux, with his years of research, offered some of the most interesting information about Guantanamo I had ever heard. He noted, for example, that the vast majority of detainees are innocent and many are known by the government to be innocent. He also pointed out that the majority of detainees were “ given” to the U.S. for a bounty – if you were Afghani, you could sell any person you don’t like for $5000.
But some things were incredibly shocking. Outside of Camp America, the military base in Guantánamo Bay, is a building dubbed “Camp No” (see map). The purposes of this building are kept so secret that the government does not even acknowledge its existence. But former Sergeant Joseph Hickman has reported wrenching screams coming from the building. Mr. Denbeaux quoted somebody as saying “This is our Auschwitz” – a harsh accusation that nonetheless captures the implications of this building, if it is truly used in the way it appears that it is being used. And remember those three suicides at Guantánamo in 2006? The government’s story does not add up, and there is mounting evidence that “Camp No” had a part in their death. (Mr. Denbeaux referred us to this article for more information: ”The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle”).
Mr. Denbeaux also has personal experience of the government trying to keep information quiet. When he, his father, and Sergeant Hickman took this story to CBS’ 60 Minutes, and subsequently ABC, the story was embraced with open arms by the respective producers. Even after filming hours of interviews, the story was rejected by both networks. Somebody, it seems, has prevented it from running. Meanwhile, Mr. Denbeaux told us, Sergeant Hickman’s life has been destroyed.
Joshua Denbeaux was a powerful speaker, and I can guarantee that all of us who attended this dinner learned so much more than we already knew. I highly recommend you look for the Denbeaux studies and learn what the Denbeaux’s research has found. You will find scores of damning accusations and evidence against the practices at Guantánamo Bay – and all of it is only what we know. More than likely, there is so much more that we don’t.
-Adam Zeidan, MPT intern