Guantánamo and China: A Shared Legal Dead Zone

In the International Herald Tribune, Richard Bernstein writes about executed accused spy Wo Weihan, , and China’s human rights record:

China’s human rights record remains abysmal, but one price paid by the United States as it tries to bring pressure on Beijing is that some of the very things that China is accused of doing – preventing transparency, using national security to justify closed-door proceedings, bypassing the normal procedures in certain cases – are what the Bush administration has been doing at its detention center for alleged enemy combatants in Guantánamo Bay, and that certainly would seem to rob Washington of some of its moral authority.

“Guantánamo was all about trying to create a place that would be outside the jurisdiction of both American and international law, a dead legal zone,” said Andrew Nathan, a political scientist at Columbia specializing both in China and in human rights law. “It was to deny the detainees any recourse to .”

What makes Guantánamo similar to China, Nathan said, is that when it comes to matters deemed by the regime in Beijing to be of great importance, the entire country is a sort of dead legal zone, inside a closed system not subject to independent outside scrutiny by independent civilian courts.

Happily, there isn’t much else in which China and the United States are comparable in this regard.

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