We’ve already been exposed to so much evil; Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture, renditions. The news of secret prison ships is therefore not much of a surprise – we have come to expect this kind of travesty from this administration.
The United States is operating “floating prisons” to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.
Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.
The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.
And who is this Reprieve that brings such allegations?
Reprieve provides frontline investigation and legal representation to prisoners denied justice by powerful governments across the world, especially those governments that should be upholding the highest standards when it comes to fair trials.
Reprieve lawyers represent people facing the death penalty, particularly in the USA, or when those facing execution are British nationals. And we represent prisoners denied justice in the name of the ‘War on Terror’, including those held without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay and the countless secret prisons beyond. None of these prisoners can afford to pay for representation.
Their founder and legal director was recently on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman
AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of the US military planning to build a new forty-acre prison complex in Afghanistan near Kabul, a $60 million dollar site replacing the makeshift prison at Bagram that apparently holds around 630 prisoners right now, a number of them held for more than five years without charge?
CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Well you know, one thing that my charity, Reprieve, out of London, we’ve been trying to do is track down the real ghost prisoners in this process. And if you look at Guantanamo Bay, 270, roughly, as you mentioned, prisoners in Guantanamo, but according to the most recent official figures, the United States is currently holding 27,000 secret prisoners around the world. So that means that 99 percent of these folk are not in Guantanamo Bay. Now they’re in other prisons elsewhere. And as you mentioned, Bagram has 680. But there’s a huge number of people being held in Iraq, and one of the intriguing aspects of this that doesn’t get much reporting is that the US is bringing people into Iraq from elsewhere to hold them there, simply because that keeps rather annoying people like you, Amy—I mean the media—and also annoying people like me, lawyers, away from the prisoners so they can’t get any sort of legal rights.
And we’ve identified thirty-two prison ships, sort of prison hulks you used to read about in Victorian England, which have been converted to hold prisoners, and we’ve got pictures of them in Lisbon Harbor, for example. And these are holding prisoners around the world, as well. And there’s a bunch of proxy prisons—Morocco, Egypt and Jordan—where this stuff is going on. *And this is a huge concern, because the world focus is on Guantanamo Bay, which really is a diversionary tactic in the whole war of terror or war on terror, whatever you’d like to call it. And actually, most of these people who have been severed from their legal rights are in these other secret prisons around the world.*
Back to the Guardian article:
Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s legal director, said: “They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights.
“By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.”
Sorry for putting up so many quotes, but there is not much for me to add. Hope your interest was spurred and that you checked the links – it looks like Guantanamo is not even the tip of the iceberg.