[FOUNTAIN]The Guantanamo gulagMarshal Konstantin Rokossovsky was a Soviet World War II hero. He took an active part in defending Moscow from Nazi Germany and played a key role in encircling and defeating Germany’s 300,000 strong Sixth Army in the Battle of Stalingrad. In 1945, Mr. Rokossovsky had the honor of commanding the Victory Parade.
Mr. Rokossovsky was appointed Deputy Minister of Defense in 1957 and became chief inspector of the Ministry of Defense the following year. When he died in 1968, the Soviet Army gave him its highest honor and buried him in Red Square, near the Kremlin.
Born of a Polish father and Russian mother, he returned to Poland after World War II, and served as the Polish Minister of National Defense from 1949 to 1956. When he was criticized for being an agent of Stalin, however, he resigned from the post and returned to the Soviet Union.
Mr. Rokossovsky had been through very difficult times. When he was just over 40, he lost all his teeth. In 1937, he was arrested and tortured by the notorious secret police agency NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB. He was also caught up in the Great Purge, Stalin’s campaign of political repression and persecution.
He was sentenced to physical labor and suffered from starvation at a concentration camp for nearly three years until March 1940. Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn depicted the miserable lives of these labor camps in “The Gulag Archipelago.” Gulag is a Russian acronym for “The Chief Directorate of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies.” From 1924 to 1953, at least 5 million people, or as many as 10 million, lost their lives from starvation, disease, ill treatment and torture at the Gulags. They were no different from the Nazi death camps, where 6 million Jews, Nazi opponents, communists, gypsies and homosexuals were killed.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw created a stir by comparing the terrorist suspect detention camp at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval base to a gulag. More than 500 terrorist suspects, mostly prisoners of war from the Afghanistan War in 2001, are held there without trial. “The Road to Guantanamo,” a movie about the ordeals of the detainees, won the award for best director at the Berlin Film Festival.
This month, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the European Parliament called for the camp to be closed. They argued that it is against the “global standard” to detain people for years without a court warrant or decision. Certainly, it is not what democracy, which the United States so ardently hopes to spread in the Middle East, looks like.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.