100 little old ladies in Switzerland sign up to be “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo


One of the little old ladies from SwitzerlandBack in December 2004, during a hearing regarding the definition of “enemy combatants,” Judge Joyce Hens Green asked a pointed question to Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle: “If a little old lady in Switzerland gave money to a charity … and the money was passed to al-Qaeda, could she be held as an enemy combatant?” Memorably, Boyle fell for the bait, replying, “She could. Someone’s intention is clearly not a factor that would disable detention.”

This exchange that launched a thousand appalled intakes of breath has now been commemorated in a petition, organized by US attorney Anant Raut with the help of Amnesty International in Switzerland, in which not one, but one hundred little old ladies in Switzerland (led by Charlotte Muschg, above) have signed their names to a petition urging the US administration to repeal last year’s scandalously unjust Military Commissions Act, which removed habeas corpus rights from the detainees at Guantánamo. As the petition notes, “Under current law, the US Department of Defense can declare non-US citizens anywhere in the world ‘enemy combatants’ and detain them for the remainder of their natural lives without ever charging them with a crime, even if they never knowingly supported terrorist activities.”

The petition

For the full petition, visit the website of the International Justice Network, an organization that “leads human rights initiatives around the world by providing direct legal assistance and expertise to victims of human rights abuses and by creating a global network of legal professionals, non-governmental organizations and community-based human rights advocates in order to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law.”

I urge you to visit IJN’s website. In a pioneering case, the organization –- led by former Center for Constitutional Rights lawyer Tina Foster –- is fighting for the rights of detainees in Bagram (Guantánamo’s horrendously opaque mirror-prison in Afghanistan) to be at least afforded the minimal rights to legal representation that have been long fought for at Guantánamo. This is a crucial step in dismantling the all-encompassing secrecy that shrouds the many thousands of detainees held in other “War on Terror” prisons –- in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in other undisclosed secret locations –- where even the minimal rights obtained by the Guantánamo detainees over the last three years are not recognized.

These prisoners are held not only without charge or trial, but also without access to lawyers, subjected solely to the whims of the US administration and the military, and with no outside contact whatsoever apart from sporadic visits from representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. If Guantánamo ever closes, their plight –- and their untold stories –- must not be forgotten, and must be the focus of the next wave of campaigners dedicated to restoring the rule of law to a renegade administration. Tina Foster and her colleagues are to be commended on making an early start in this vital task.

Note: For the latest on IJN’s Bagram case, see the website. For a revealing insight into “extraordinary rendition” and the secret prisons –- and information on America’s Disappeared –- see Human Rights Watch’s February 2007 report, Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention , which tells the story of Marwan Jabour, who was seized in Pakistan in May 2004, and held for nearly two and a half years in secret prisons.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

2 Responses

  1. 100 little old ladies in Switzerland sign up to be “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo | freedetainees.org says...

    […] By Andy Worthington 25.9.07 […]

  2. Habeas Hell: How The Great Writ Was Gutted At Guantánamo « Eurasia Review says...

    […] about whether or not it is justifiable to hold soldiers indefinitely at Guantánamo, and takes us back to the darkest days of the Bush administration, when, in a memorable exchange in a US court, Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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