No human rights guarantees for Guantánamo detainees

No human rights guarantees for Guantánamo detainees

No human rights guarantees for Guantánamo detainees

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 30 2006 5:32 AM

Point of No Return

The New York Times leads with anonymous officials claiming that although the Bush administration intends to repatriate hundreds of Guantanamo Bay detainees, the effort has been "stymied" by fears that the detainees would be sent back to countries with poor human rights records. The Washington Post leads with news that insurers, reeling from the cost of Hurricane Katrina, are canceling policies along the nation's coasts or simply refusing to write them. The Los Angeles Times leads with poll results showing broad support for a guest worker program among Californians.

Military officials claim that of the almost 500 suspects being held at Guantanamo, 150 are ready for repatriation as soon as their return can be negotiated with their home countries. Talks with these countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Yemen which account for almost half of the detainees, have been "complex, time-consuming and difficult." The State Department's human rights bureau is insisting on guarantees that prisoners will not be tortured upon their return and will be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law. Enforcement seems to be the sticking point—officials have no way of monitoring the prisoners. One proposal had the Red Cross visiting prisoners but when the Saudi government refused to allow the Red Cross access to its prisons, the proposal was scrapped.

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Of course, the irony of the officials' fears for the safety of the detainees is not lost on well, anyone. A diplomat from an unnamed Middle Eastern country involved in the talks said, "It is kind of ironic that the U.S. government is placing conditions on other countries that it would not follow itself in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib." Still, human rights may not be the only roadblock—security in the prisons is another obstacle to the detainees' return. Twenty-three men, including some Al-Qaida operatives, escaped from a high-security prison in the Yemeni capital in February. 

After Hurricane Katrina, Allstate ceased writing homeowners policies in Louisiana, Florida, and coastal parts of Texas and New York. It also stopped underwriting earthquake coverage in California. Firms have retreated from the Gulf Coast to Cape Cod; in Florida 500,000 policies will be canceled. This withdrawal comes at a cost: Instead of relying on the insurance companies, homeowners will be forced to use state-backed insurer plans that are subsidized by taxpayers. Allstate is part of a sizeable coalition that is lobbying hard for the federal government to provide backup when losses exceed a certain point. The WP does points out that not only did the insurance industry report a 12 percent increase in net income in 2005, but that up to half of the losses from Katrina were "borne by overseas firms or reinsurers." 

According to the LAT poll, most Californians prefer a "comprehensive approach to the immigration issue" rather than a more punitive approach as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. There was notably little difference of opinion between Latinos and whites, and Californians were generally more supportive of this approach, which would combine tougher border enforcement with the guest worker program. Gov. Schwarzenegger got higher marks from whites than Latinos—but not by much. Forty-nine percent of those polled don't approve of how he's handled the issue so far. The governor lauded the efforts of the Minuteman Militia last year but has more recently condemned the idea of a border fence.

The WP goes below the fold with an interesting cost-benefit analysis of immigrants—both legal and illegal—in the D.C. area. The article contrasts the value added by the immigrant labor force to the nation's capital, specifically to the growing restaurant industry, with the cost of immigrants to the federal and local governments.

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The NYT off-leads with a somewhat thin analysis comparing the Iranian nuclear conflict to Cold War nuclear standoffs. The current struggle, unlike its predecessors, is not one between two nuclear powers—not yet, anyway. Although the U.S. and Europe concede that Iran doesn't have a bomb yet, they don't think President Ahmadinejad can be trusted to limit uranium enrichment to civilian purposes. Also different this time around—officials think Iran could follow North Korea's lead and keep the details of its program a secret, never setting off a bomb to herald its nuclear capabilities the way Russia, China, India, and Pakistan did in the past.

The WP off-leads with a lengthy feature on Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The article contrasts the city-state's status as the center of an Arab renaissance with the grim reality of its foreign workers, labor unrest, and illegal activities.

The NYT fronts the final article in its series on disease in the developing world, spotlighting Nepal's national measles vaccination campaign. Last year the campaign cut the country's measles-related deaths by 90 percent. The secret of the Nepali success: a network of volunteer mothers who deliver health services in their villages. Still, measles kills 450,000 children worldwide each year, with more deaths in India than any other country.

The NYT also fronts analysis on the possibility that the administration will begin to prosecute reporters under espionage laws, forcing them to reveal sources who divulge information related to national security. Two statutes in particular are at issue. In the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, the Supreme Court found the first statute, which prohibits anyone with unauthorized access to information about national defense from tellingothers about it verbally, to be inapplicable to newspapers. (This is the law the AIPAC lobbyists are charged with violating—raising questions about whether the law can apply to lobbyists but not journalists.) The second law, however, may have more teeth; it actually prohibits the publication of "communications intelligence activities." 

Everyone has news of the death of economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Galbraith, who counseled Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson, died at age 97.

There goes the neighborhood: The LAT goes inside with a local story on one community's opposition to porn films being shot in residential areas. According to the LAT, one woman was preparing Passover supper when she looked out her window and saw film crews setting up. Another was on her way to a fund-raiser when she saw "scantily clad" women headed into the same house. One resident ordered his daughter to stay inside while a film was being shot in the house next door. "That was the end of Easter Sunday," he said.