News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Charge Guantanamo prisoners, set trial dates

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..."

The founding fathers, when declaring their independence from England, did not assert that all Americans were created equal, or all Christians. They affirmed that all men were created equal — and "endowed by their creator with ... rights (to) life, liberty and pursuit of happiness."

Yet, in today's political climate, some men are apparently more equal than others.

In January 2002, the United States, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, began detaining suspected enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Eastern Cuba. They selected the foreign site in order to sidestep U.S. laws prohibiting imprisonment without charges. The United States has charged only 10 of the 490 prisoners currently held as suspected terrorists. The military has either released or transferred to authorities in their home countries another 270 detainees.

The Pentagon has been secretive about the detainees, citing national security concerns. But the Associated Press won a Freedom of Information lawsuit against the Defense Department, which forced the Pentagon to release transcripts of some hearings late last week.

The military tribunal transcripts show that some detainees have been interrogated as many as 50 times without being charged with a crime. Others have been charged, but not informed of the allegation or else denied legal representation.

U.S. officials say the camp houses only people who want to kill American troops or civilians.

"The folks that are at Guantanamo Bay all have a valid reason for being sent there," prison spokesman Army Maj. Jeffrey Weir said.

Since the military is certain of that fact, it needs to charge them now and schedule trials so that justice can be served.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

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