Cuban dissidents held at Gitmo?

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 20, 2004 3:47PM (EDT)

The Pentagon's statement announcing annual opportunities for Guantanamo detainees to make a case for their release -- to panels of military officers and without the aid of counsel, of course -- makes DOD officials sound like such good sports. We don't have to do this, the statement says. It's unprecedented! "The release of enemy combatants prior to the end of a war is a significant departure from past U.S. wartime practices. Enemy combatants are detained for a very practical reason: To prevent them from returning to the fight. That's why the law of war permits their detention until the end of an armed conflict. Although the global war on terror is real and ongoing, DoD has decided as a matter of policy to institute these review procedures. This process will assist DoD in fulfilling its commitment to ensure that no one is detained any longer than is warranted."

Nevermind that given the veil of secrecy over the operation, and since the 600 detainees have never had trials or hearings, we really have no idea what kind of threat they ever posed to anyone. Only six detainees have been designated by President Bush as eligible for trial by military tribunals.

But a Cuban exile leader says there are 30 Cuban dissidents being held at Gitmo, too, including women and children. They fled Cuba, were stopped by U.S. vessels and had been held secretly for the past year -- even though they were promised passage to a third country, Ramon Saul Sanchez of Democracy Movement told the BBC. He said Washington threatened to give the dissidents back to Castro if they talked to the press. Now that detainees picked up in Afghanistan can argue for release, Sanchez wants the same for the Cubans held there.

"If we are in a time when terrorists are being released from Guantanamo because they have found out that they are no harm... why are we keeping human rights activists incarcerated?" Sanchez told the BBC.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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