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The Word on the Week

Guantanamo Prison

The publicity surrounding the pre-trial hearings of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-styled planner of the September 11th 2001 attacks, has raised the question of justice again.

Taken from his native Pakistan in 2003 he has spent the last 10 years locked up. His fate was shared initially with 460 prisoners but their number has reduced over the years to the present figure of 166. The uncertainty of not having a trial or release date has led 104 to stop eating and 44 at present are being force fed.

Modern terrorism has presented the US with difficulties as global policing was required after 9/11. People were arrested in many countries and brought to Guantanamo Bay. This is a secure area of Cuba rented to the US on a long lease, where the usual prisoner rights of US law do not apply.

Attempts have been made to repatriate those sentenced and some have served their sentences in their own country. Others come from lands where the government would permit their anti-American activities so that sending them home would be counterproductive from the US point of view. Still others are not welcome anywhere despite the best efforts of the Americans to send them away.

It is a cruel irony that in the land of the Pilgrim Fathers, who fled England to escape the Star Chamber, the Court of High Commission and the dependence of justice on the whim of a tyrant, human beings are now to be tried in secret by a military tribunal!

St Paul writing to arguably the most persecuted church of all time wrote “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans Chapter 12 verses 17-21).

It may not get Congress to act nor may it impress those in prison but eventually a solution has to be found and St Paul’s advice has a timeless quality to it.