Open Letter to Mr. G. W. Bush President of the United States of America

Dear Mr. President,

You have recently released a public statement in commemoration to the UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims in which you affirm that the US is ’committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.’ The FIDH surely welcomes this statement, but cannot avoid noting that measures taken by your administration come in deep contradiction with your alleged commitment.

The case of the prisoners at Guantanamo is a sad example: detention of children, irregular classification of ’enemy combatants’, long-term detentions in communicado and denial of hearings, in violation to the Geneva Conventions on the basis of FIDH and other’s communications. Both the Inter American Commission for Human Rights and the UN Working Group on Forced Disappearance have denounced the arbitrarity that characterizes the situation of these prisoners. More than 680 persons are detained at the Guantanamo Bay base and several more in other countries, many of whom the whereabouts are unknown.

What rule of law are we talking about?

The FIDH is particularly concerned about the creation of Military Commissions destined, in a discriminatory fashion, to trial solely the non-Americans among the presumed terrorists - from which you have designated six to be soon the first to be judged by those Commissions. Elaborated by the Department of Defense, the Commissions’ rules of procedure are an exception to your ordinary domestic law and openly violate the international provisions that guarantee the right to a due process and a fair trial: lack of independence, limitations to the possibility of appeal, adoption of an undisclosed process, application of death penalty, restricted access to lawyers, etc. The construction, under these circumstances, of trial and execution facilities at Guantanamo is in direct contradiction with the most fundamental universal norms.

What rule of law are we talking about?

Mister President, the FIDH considers that your announced willingness to protect human rights is equally threatened by the decision taken by your administration on July 1st 2003 - day of the celebration of first year of the International Criminal Court (ICC) - to suspend your military assistance to dozens of countries that have refused to sign an immunity treaty with the US, aiming at the exclusion of US nationals suspected of having committed crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes from the competence of the ICC; in reality, these treaties constitute actual sabotage to this young and promising institution, which has been awaited by victims for years in the hope to see their violators finally sanctioned.

The FIDH congratulates those States for their courage in refusing, in the name of the fight against impunity, to sign the treaties that you have tried to impose on them. The security and economic sanctions inflicted on them by your administration appears like scandalous blackmail and chocks all, while evidences your hostility towards the first permanent international criminal jurisdiction in charge of judging the authors of the gravest crimes.

Your announced trip to Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, and Nigeria, July 7 to 12, 2003, includes in its agenda the signature of that mentioned immunity treaties - this is widely known. The FIDH denounces in advance the use of blackmail by your administration, one more time, in contradiction to your public statements of “working for a free, prosper and peaceful Africa”. You have clarified for us the real measure of the “liberty” your administration is willing to grant to the involved African peoples. The FIDH urges the leaders of those countries to refuse and firmly denounce the conclusion of those treaties, in order to guarantee the integrity of the ICC.

Mister President,

The FIDH urges you to observe the international and regional human rights provisions that bind the US and in particular calls you to:

- Suppress the exceptional military jurisdictions and make use of the ordinary legislation in the anti-terrorist struggle;

- Guarantee to the prisoners at Guantanamo a legal regime that respects the international humanitarian law rules, specially the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and to accept the presence of independent international monitors in the military base at Guantanamo Bay;

- Immediately cease blackmailing the States that refuse to sign bilateral immunity treaties and to put an immediate end to your offensives against the ICC.

These are essential conditions to the credibility of your recent statements. The respect of these conditions is expected from the president of the presumed world’s main democracy. Although you insist in reminding us repeatedly of it, we refuse to consider the US only as the world’s first power.

Yours sincerely,

Sidiki Kaba
FIDH’s President

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