Administration Must Respect Civil Liberties

In the Nov. 6 issue of the New York Review of Books, Ronald Dworkin makes a compelling case for demanding that the Bush Administration adhere to civil liberities protections for the Guantanamo detainees. Here's part:

The Guantánamo detainees are also being held indefinitely and in secret, with no access to lawyers, under circumstances that would be intolerable even if they were convicted criminals. But they have not been charged with crimes or given the benefit of legal advice or process. If the detainees are prisoners of war, they must be treated as such. If they are suspected criminals, they must be treated as such. The government must choose, once again, not because it is required to do so by treaties but because its failure to do so treats the lives of the detainees with impermissible contempt.

Rights would be worthless--and the idea of a right incomprehensible--unless respecting rights meant taking some risk. We can and must try to limit those risks, but some risk will remain. It may be that we would be marginally more secure if we decided to care nothing for the human rights of anyone else. That is true in domestic policy as well. We run a marginally increased risk of violent death at the hands of murderers every day by insisting on rights for accused criminals in order to keep faith with our own humanity. For the same reason we must run a marginally increased risk of terrorism as well. Of course we must sharpen our vigilance, but we must also discipline our fear. The government says that only our own safety matters. That is a counsel of shame: we are braver than that, and have more self-respect

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