Today marked the sixth anniversary of the use of the American Guantanamo Bay base on Cuba as a detention camp for those captured in the so called "war on terror". We are told that the rationale for this "war on terror" is to protect the human rights and civil liberties that we enjoy in our society. However, this involves the incarceration of hundreds of people without charge or being brought to trial, many of whom are held in isolation for 22 hours in the day in windowless cells at the Guantanamo Bay site. This clearly represents a fundamental breach of the human rights and civil liberties of those individuals and undermines any concept of protecting the human rights of the rest of us.
Human rights are a universal concept, applicable to all citizens of this planet. That is why the United Nations declaration of human rights - which incidentally has its sixtieth birthday this year - is a universal declaration. When any individual has those same human rights denied to them then it is an attack on the human rights of us all, as it undermines this concept of universality.
Clearly this does not concern the American government much at all, but it concerns me.
Thankfully it concerns many other right minded individuals as well, and I was able to gather with over 150 of them today outside the U.S. Consulate in Edinburgh to protest at the existence of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay and to call for its closure. This was organised by Amnesty International, who deserve great credit for this, and also for the petition they put together for parliamentarians across the world to sign to call for the closure of the camp that will be delivered to the White House in due course. I was happy to sign this petition as were over 1,200 other world parliamentarians too.
John Watson of Amnesty International informed the gathered crowd today that 53 of the members of the Scottish Parliament were amongst the signatories, which apparently represented the highest percentage of any parliament in the world - a fact which was pleasing to hear.
The event today took the form of hundreds of individuals dressing in similar types of the orange jump suits that have become synonymous with incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, kneeling down in silent protest (see attached photo but please ignore the fact that my eyes are shut). John Watson, myself and Mike Pringle MSP then delivered a letter to the U.S. Consul General setting out objections to the continued existence of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. What a surprise it was then that the Scottish security guard manning the Consulate came out to tell us that no one was working that day, but he would gladly take in the letter to be handed in later. Funnily enough, no one gathered there thought it a coincidence that no one was working the same day that a protest was organised outside their front door.
It is to be hoped that 20 January, 2009 will see the inauguration of a more even minded and humanitarian President of the United States that the current incumbent, and that the time will soon be up on the horrendous detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.