AMONG the many things that Barack Obama will be left to clear up when he has Presidential power after January 20 will be the future of Guantanamo Bay and its remaining inmates. The complexity of this legacy has been made only too clear by the joint request of the five prisoners charged with planning and co-ordinating the attacks of 9/11 that their confessions of guilt should be accepted and their sentences carried out. No one is inclined to take this request at face value. The most obvious explanation of it is that the prisoners are challenging the Guantanamo Bay legal system to find them guilty, sentence them to death and thus grant them martyrdom. This may be a challenge that the US government is unwilling to accept because some have previously pleaded not guilty and in the case of their leader, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, some of the statements he is alleged to have made were obtained by torture. An alternative explanation of the prisoners' action is that they think Barack Obama will seek to move their cases to civil courts and that this would deny them the opportunity of going down in history as martyrs of the Guantanamo regime. All in all this is a bad conclusion to a bad business, created by the arbitrary establishment of Guantamo with rules of its own that have proved unworkable and unjust.


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