President George W. Bush, who has seemed at times like a PR agent for Natan Sharansky’s 2004 book on democracy, is now finding himself under the former Soviet dissident’s unblinking eye.
Sharansky, a Knesset member, told The Jewish Week that if reports are true that the United States is holding al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons in eight countries, it should consider closing those prisons.
"I would say, bring the people here and interrogate them here," he said during a visit here. "Or if you [interrogate them] there, do it under your laws."
The existence of the secret prisons was reported this week by The Washington Post. Critics contend that such prisons were established to allow the use of interrogation techniques that would be illegal in the U.S.
Asked about the accused enemy combatants being held for years without trial at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Sharansky said he discussed this with Bush when he met with him a year ago at the White House.
"It’s important from the point of view of human rights," said Sharansky, author of, "The Case for Democracy." Unlike the abuses of prisoners by American military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by "some twisted people," Sharansky said, "here the state is keeping prisoners for a long time without anybody knowing about it. It’s a very serious situation. It couldn’t happen in Israel," because no mandatory court reviews.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it would decide the validity of military commissions Bush wants to use to bring the prisoners to trial. Military and civilian lawyers for the prisoners insist that Bush does not have the authority to establish such tribunals, which they contend would deprive the prisoners of several legal protections.
Sharansky, in New York to encourage support for the Likud Party in the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections, alluded to the Supreme Court review of the tribunals, saying: "The U.S. has many tools to deal with [potential abuses]."