On 4 March 2010, US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced a bill – the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010 – into the Senate. The USA is engaged in a “war” against terrorism, Senator McCain’s statement emphasised, while avoiding the phrase “war on terror”. He said that the bill would authorize detention without charge “for the duration of hostilities” of anyone labelled as an “unprivileged enemy belligerent”. It would prohibit any such individual from being provided a lawyer after arrest – “we should not be providing suspected terrorists” with defence lawyers, Senator McCain said. If it eventually was decided to hold a criminal trial in such a case, he added, his bill would mandate military commissions as the forum. Criminal prosecution “must be secondary” in such cases, Senator McCain asserted. He could have said “second-class”, for that is what military commissions are. He urged his fellow Senators to support the legislation.
But injustice for one day is bad enough.
Each day that passes without accountability, remedy and resolution of detainee cases in line with US human rights and humanitarian law obligations compounds the damage done to the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights already wrought by actions taken by the USA in the name of “countering terrorism” over recent years. An end to the injustice is long overdue. The US administration and Congress must do the right thing now.