Detainee Rights

An odd debate is taking place which I find hard to understand.  In America we believe all people are created equal and have rights.   We do not limit this belief to only Americans.  ALL humans should have these rights.  We only have the power to guarantee them to Americans, but in theory we believe and hope that other cultures and societies will come around to what most of us believe to be a universal truth: humans have dignity and should not have rights violated by the government, or by those stronger than themselves.

Yet when it comes to detainees, a lot of people seem to forget the idea that innocence is presumed, and guilt has to be proven before the state can use its power to punish people.   Apparently to some people if an accused is not American, and if the accusation is aiding terrorism, then it’s OK to simply presume guilt and lock them away forever, effectively destroying their lives.  Never mind that mistakes have been made in arrests already, or that many of these people were simply fighting to defend a government they believed in.  In the mind of some “Americans” it’s OK to deny these people rights.  They are different.

When we want to give them human rights, these folk cry out “you want to give terrorists rights!”  Not only do they presume guilt, but they create a category (‘terrorist’) where they put undesirables as a rationalization to deny them any sort of humanity.   Yeah, the human race has “been there, done that.”  Remember Nazi Germany and the Jews?   Are all these people terrorists?  Certainly not.   That definitely can’t be proven and almost certainly is not true.  But that’s OK.   Cover your eyes, give the government power, fear monger.

It’s a sad day when people sacrifice so much of their core beliefs out of fear.  And the irony is you have some claiming that health care reform or saving the car industry is “socialism” that “threatens America,” even as they throw our values down the stream because those “others” are “strange.”  It would be amusing, if it were not so pathetically sad.

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  1. #1 by Mike Lovell on June 16, 2009 - 14:47

    “Yet when it comes to detainees, a lot of people seem to forget the idea that innocence is presumed, and guilt has to be proven before the state can use its power to punish people.”

    Technically speaking, and this applies to citizen and non-citizen alike, isn’t locking them up immediately after arrest but prior to guilty plea or date in court punishment in and of itself??? Just a philosophical take on this particular sentence.

    • #2 by Scott Erb on June 16, 2009 - 15:11

      I think that dilemma is dealt with good enough (if not technically perfectly) with a right to a speedy trial. I don’t think detention after 9-11 was wrong, given the threats. But it can’t be permanent, and we can’t simply deny all rights. I’m pragmatic. We can’t be perfect in this kind of world, but we can try to get closer!

  2. #3 by henitsirk on June 16, 2009 - 15:06

    It’s really east to deny humanity when you abstract someone into an “other”. And when you don’t have to see them every day.

    We tend to forget that little “all men are created equal” bit.

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