Muslim Congressman Reviews Detainee Conditions First-Hand
Contact: Rick Jauert
Washington, D.C. â€“ Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) is participating in a trip, facilitated by the Department of the Army, to tour the prisoner facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Guantanamo Bay currently houses approximately 275 prisoners from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. It has been argued by some that because these detainees are designated as â€œenemy combatantsâ€ rather than â€œprisoners of warâ€ they are not subject to International Geneva Convention Accords.
Similarly, because they reside on land not part of the United States, some have determined that basic American habeas corpus, due process and other fundamental legal rights due Americans are not applicable to these detainees.
Ellison is a Member of the Judiciary Committee which has oversight on judicial and Constitutional matters including habeas corpus which is at the core of the Guantanamo detention center. The Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, John Conyers (D-MI) has said, â€œHabeas Corpus is one of the fundamental touchstones of our constitutional democracy.â€ â€œWe cannot preach freedom abroad if we are not willing to give prisoners the ability to establish their innocence; and, we cannot advance the cause of fighting terrorism at home if our government takes constitutionally dubious short cuts,â€ Chairman Conyers stated.
â€œI have long held strong concerns about the constitutionality of the arguments put forth by those holding these prisoners for indeterminate amounts of time without ever charging them with anything,â€ Congressman Ellison said.
â€œI am equally concerned about the conditions and alleged treatment under which these detainees have been held,â€ Ellison stated. â€œThis trip will give me the opportunity to witness first-hand the conditions under which they are held, and hopefully to visit with some of the detainees.â€
â€œLet there be no mistake; I have no illusions that this facility harbors some hardened terrorists. However, I am equally convinced that others have simply been swept up in the hysteria that has occurred in both wars.â€
â€œI have grave concerns that two hundred thirty two years of American Democracy have been tarnished in the eyes of the world by the establishment and maintenance of this no-manâ€™s land where the bright sunlight of American Democracy does not shine. That must change â€“ and it will under a new Administration.â€
The Bush Administration has intimated it would like to close the facility. â€œIt is incumbent on this Congress, and specifically the Judiciary Committee, to know what has happened in Guantanamo, and what needs to be done with these detainees once this facility is finally closed.â€ Ellison concluded.