These legal disputes, however, can dangerously obscure a more fundamental question: Is it ever morally acceptable to detain a person, citizen or not, possibly for the rest of his life, without charges or a trial? Consider the Golden Rule. If a foreign government detained you, or a loved one, what would you expect as due process? Detailed charges? A presumption of innocence? Humane interrogation, skilled legal representation, access to evidence, ability to call witnesses, fair courtroom procedures, an independent judicial authority, a public trial within a reasonable amount of time and, if you are not charged or convicted, the freedom to return home to family? Some might argue that “terrorists” forfeit these rights. But this presumes guilt. No detaining authority, whether foreign or American, should have unchecked power over a person’s liberty.
The United States failed to treat Adnan Latif in accord with the Golden Rule. His only relief from Guantánamo was death itself. The Obama administration has no plan to prosecute or release 48 detainees in Guantánamo and hundreds more in Afghanistan. These men face the prospect that they will be “released” in the same tragic manner as Mr. Latif. In Guantánamo, 85 other detainees, already approved for release or transfer, remain in custody.
What has sustained this perversion of justice? As a nation, we have failed to acknowledge and repent of our sins. The problem is both political and spiritual. Leaving persons detained for an indefinite period of time is an inhumane practice that results in hopelessness, despair and sometimes, tragically, death. Human dignity requires that the United States reject this practice and firmly renew its commitment to basic fairness for all.Just in case someone argues that the Catholic Church is a single-issue voter and that you need to vote for the better Catholic in this year's election.