To understand international politics and diplomacy you have to realize that customs and traditions are very different in different countries. Many complications can arise when people do not understand cultural differences.
Just to give you one example of how different local customs can be, here in Sweden the news media will not disclose the names and photos of suspected criminals until they have been tried and found guilty in a court of law. Until that moment the media just talk about "the 24-year-old," "the younger suspect," etc. Only certain public figures such as elected politicians will be mentioned by name before there is a lawful verdict.
Clearly this is very different from what is done in many other countries.
Another curious custom in our country (and in many others, by the way) is that you are not allowed to lock people up just on a whim. In Sweden this restriction isn't just for the unwashed masses, even the authorities are bound by this. Not even the police can lock people up unless they can give a clear reason - they have to present charges, and there's any number of formalities and controls, with prosecutors and lawyers and so on, and they're required to inform the public and subject themselves to the scrutiny of the media. And then, in addition to all these restrictions, the time that the police can hold a person without a trial is very limited.
Maybe the man in the cage does not understand that this is just the way that we do things here, in our part of the world, that customs differ widely, and many countries have completely different traditions.
You see, the man sits in his cage as a demonstration. He wants to show people what is happening to his son, who is held in a similar cage far away in the tropics. He hopes that people who see him in his cage will put pressure on the Government of Sweden to try to intervene and get his son released, or at least get to know what the charges are, if there are any.
But what can our Government do? Clearly the Government of Sweden has authority only here in Sweden. Clearly it can't do anything about laws and traditions in other countries. Or can it?
Our Government did make several attempts to intervene through diplomatic channels, but unfortunately the effects have been very limited, the only result was a single encounter between the son and his lawyer.
Curiously, the son wasn't allowed to see his lawyer in private. That single conversation between lawyer and client was supervised by the authorities, I think it was even recorded. This is yet another thing that seems very, very strange when you're used to Swedish traditions.
What can the Swedish Government do now, in this strange situation? What can the man in the cage do? What can anyone do?
Even if the man in the cage can't get the results that he wants, at least his demonstration affects some of the people who pass by. Looking at that cage, I tried to imagine how I would feel if I were enclosed like that for months on end, without knowing if the imprisonment would ever end. Assuming that the son is as innocent as his father claims, I'd be desperately angry and frustrated at the lack of any charges to defend myself against, getting no trial, getting no chance at all to defend myself.
To make it even worse, nobody knows if the son receives the mail that the family and the lawyer are sending to him. They don't receive any replies. Nobody knows why the son and the other prisoners are isolated in this way.
Of course I don't know if the son is guilty or innocent, I can't know that, but that isn't the point. It's the lack of charges and fair trial that seem so foreign to me, to the very foundations of my ways of thinking. You just don't lock people up without a reason.
Does this mean that I'm too biased by my Swedish traditions? Should I try to be more tolerant to the mores and customs of other peoples and cultures? No, this is too foreign.
I suppose the most important lesson from this sad story is that if you value your freedom you should avoid countries where you can be locked up for months without a chance to defend yourself.
According to some news reports, "reliable sources" have revealed that the son and many others have already been acquitted. Not that there were any charges or trials, but after all the investigations, in the end there simply wasn't anything they could charge them with.
According to those reports, the only reason they are still keeping these people in their cages is that the arresting authorities want to save face. The only reason for holding them is that some people in authority are waiting for the right moment, trying to find some way to minimise the great embarrassment.
If that is true, it seems to me that the embarrassment is already an unavoidable fact. Keeping these people locked up in this situation will just make everything worse. The best course of action would be to hurry and release them as soon as possible.
Sitting in his cage, the father is asking passers-by to sign a petition, asking our Government to tell our Ambassador to come home to Sweden, as a clear, decisive gesture of protest, to show that Sweden does not tolerate that a citizen of our country is treated this way. The Swedish Foreign Minister did comment on this request. She said that this wouldn't be the right thing to do. "On the contrary, our Ambassador must stay in Washington and represent us there, he must present our views and our arguments to the Government of the United States."
Meanwhile the son is waiting in his cage under the merciless tropical sun at the base at Guantanamo, held month after month by the Land of the Free, without charges, without trial, isolated from lawyer and from family mail, while a world that is used to very different traditions is watching and wondering, perplexed, bewildered, embarrassed.
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