As City Paper reported this week, the case in which the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), joined by media organizations, including Wikileaks, The Nation, and Democracy Now!, asked for a court order to end pervasive secrecy surrounding the court-martial proceedings against U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, landed in Maryland federal court on Monday.
Late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander ruled that the group’s claims of unconstitutional secrecy do not merit her intervening in the trial of Manning (who in 2010 released a trove of classified material to the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks) with an order governing public disclosure of court documents.
“In light of the actions taken by defendants after this case was filed—to release documents, to commit to expedited release of documents going forward, and to permit unofficial transcription of proceedings by privately retained stenographers—I do not see a substantial likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction,” Hollander wrote in a 42-page opinion, docketed two days after the June 17 oral arguments in the lawsuit.
“I am mindful of the keen public interest in the court-martial, the right of public access to such proceedings, as well as the extraordinary nature of the relief plaintiffs seek,” Hollander continued. But the plaintiffs – New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), along with several journalists and media organizations, including Wikileaks, The Nation, and Democracy Now! – “ask this Court to intervene collaterally in an ongoing court-martial and issue dictates to the military judge conducting the proceedings, in regard to the management of public disclosures. In light of the measures that defendants have taken to provide the press and the public with access to the ongoing court-martial proceedings, such preliminary, equitable relief is not warranted here.”
The defendants – military leaders in charge of the proceedings against Manning – had cautioned Hollander against intervening in the Manning court martial, questioning whether a U.S. District Court judge had jurisdiction over a military tribunal. Hollander disagreed with that notion.
While the federal court “is obliged to tread gingerly” when reviewing a military tribunal’s rulings, Hollander wrote, “it cannot ignore its responsibilities to uphold federal rights,” which in this case involve “fundamental constitutional values of openness of court proceedings.” She added that “such access is vital in our democracy, and helps to inspire public confidence in the integrity of such proceedings,” but in rejecting the plaintiff’s case, decided that sufficient public access to the Manning court martial is currently in place, even if it may not have been when the lawsuit was filed on May 22.
The Center for Constitutional Rights along with several journalists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, asked the court to ensure members of the press and public have access to court documents and transcripts in Manning’s case.
With Manning facing a possible life sentence for the charges against him, about a third of the upcoming trial is expected to be held behind closed doors. The trail is set to begin on June 3, 2013.
Manning, a 25-year-old private first class, admitted in late February to having sent the secret-busting website the largest intelligence trove in U.S. history.
The leaked filed included hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Guantanamo detainee profiles, and, most famously, footage of a Baghdad airstrike.
Last year, Col. Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over Manning’s trial, declined to grant media outlets open access to government records and judicial opinions in the case. The case went to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces after the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Lind’s decision in June.
At a hearing to have the military appeals court widen public access to these proceedings, the five-judge panel questioned whether they had jurisdiction to grant such relief.
Though the judges seemed to see the merit in ordering transparent proceedings, they killed the appeal, 3-2, Wednesday on jurisdictional grounds.
“Here, the accused has steadfastly refused to join in the litigation, or, despite the Court’s invitation, to file a brief on the questions presented,” Judge Scott Stucky wrote for the majority. “We thus are asked to adjudicate what amounts to a civil action, maintained by persons who are strangers to the court-martial, asking for relief expedited access to certain documents that has no bearing on any findings and sentence that may eventually be adjudged by the court-martial.”
The majority distinguished Manning’s court-martial from that of the 1997 case ABC Inc. v. Powell, where the accused “joined the media as party in seeking a writ of mandamus to vindicate his constitutional right to a public trial something which had immediate relevance to the potential findings and sentence of his court-martial.”
In the Manning case, “we are not foreclosing the accused from testing the scope of public access, but he has not done so here,” the ruling continues.
The two dissenting judges insisted, however, that “the general public has a qualified constitutional right of access to criminal trials,” and this includes access to filings.
“Congress did not intend for military judges to operate without review when applying the Rules for Courts-Martial or the Military Rules of Evidence,” Chief Judge James Baker wrote, joined by Judge William Cox. “Neither did Congress intend that review to come in the form of collateral appeal to Article III courts in the context of ongoing courts-martial. That would not provide for a uniform application of the law between services and between courts-martial. It would also be unworkable.”
Appellate jurisdiction is certainly available to review a military judge’s application of Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M.) 806, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which explains the right to public trial, according to the dissent.
They said the majority opinion will have the unintended consequence of barring “this court from exercising jurisdiction in an appeal arising from an accused’s assertion of his R.C.M. 806 right to a public trial.”
“The majority’s interpretation leaves collateral appeal to Article III courts as the sole mechanism to vindicate the right to a public trial found in R.C.M. 806 beyond the initial good judgment of the military judge,” Baker wrote. “This is unworkable and cannot reflect congressional design or presidential intent. Among other things, such a reading would result in the uneven application of the law depending, as it would, on the fortuity of the geographic locale where a court-martial is convened. In the case of overseas courts-martial it is not clear how this would work at all.”
Judge Cox wrote a separate dissent, joined by Baker, where he highlighted the “responsibility” of military judges “to insure that a military court-martial is conducted so that the military accused and the public enjoy the same rights to a fair and public hearing.”
The military judge’s confusion as to what authority she possesses over trial documents is evident from the record. In the same Article 39(a), UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 839(a) (2006), session, the military judge approved the publication of defense motions, pursuant to an agreement with the government, on a defense website, yet then stated she does not possess the authority to authorize release of court documents in response to appellants’ original request before the court, a request which included documents filed with the court such as defense motions. ”
Along with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Assange, the plaintiffs in the case are Salon.com writer Glenn Greenwald, Democracy Now writer Amy Goodman; The Nation writer Jeremy Scahill; Kevin Gosztola of The Dissenter; and attorney Chase Madar.
A GROWING number of Guantanamo inmates are going on hunger strike, protesting against their indefinite detention and the diminishing prospects that the infamous prison will be closed.
“It is unprecedented in its scope, in its duration, in its determination,” David Remes, an attorney representing 15 Guantanamo detainees, said as the growing strike at the US prison facility enters its seventh week.
As of Friday 26 detainees were on hunger strike — nearly double the number from a week earlier — with feeding tubes administered to eight, according to military authorities at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Captain Robert Durand, a prison spokesman, said two detainees were at the hospital “for re-hydration and observation, on enteral feed.”
The strike was launched at Camp 6 on Feb. 6, when a “routine” inmate search took place, according to Durand. Camp 6, built on the hills around Guantanamo, houses inmates who pose no particular threat and have no special value in the eyes of US authorities.
“Two-thirds of the population are detainees cleared for transfer,” Remes said. “They were caught by accident, their life has been ruined, everything has been taken from them.”
These inmates include 56 Yemenis who cannot return home because of a moratorium imposed by President Barack Obama in the wake of attacks plotted in recent years by Al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate, which has counted former Guantanamo inmates among its ranks.
Remes said the Yemenis live at Guantanamo in “absolute frustration in their 12th year without being charged and with the increasing prospect of never getting out. “The camps are a tomb,” the lawyer added.
Obama — who has long seen the prison set up in the early months of the so-called war on terror as a lightning rod for anti-Americanism and a recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda — moved to close the facility in 2009, but his plans to try suspects in US civilian courts were stymied by Congress.
Omar Farah, from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said the US government has no plan to close Guantanamo and no idea how to solve the problem. “Their solution is just to do nothing,” he said. As proof, he cites a request submitted to the US Congress asking for funds to renovate the military base.
General John Kelly, head of the Southern Command, which runs Guantanamo, has requested $170 million to improve facilities for the troops stationed there and spoken of the need to replace the camp for so-called “special” inmates. This undoubtedly refers to Camp 7, which houses 15 “high value” detainees, including five accused of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
“There are no excuses for it,” said Frank Jannuzi, deputy executive director of Amnesty International US. “We do believe one way to realize the closure of Guantanamo is by first … reducing the population there,” starting with those who have been cleared for release.
He said Amnesty International was worried indefinite detention was becoming a new norm. “It flies in the face of international law,” he added. Farah said the hunger strike can be explained by the fact that prisoners see no light at the end of the tunnel.
“They are desperate. They’re looking at getting old and dying in an harsh prison without having ever been charged with a crime or having had a trial,” he said.
In a comment to RT the United Nations rights body said it is investigating allegations of mistreatment at America’s detention facility in Cuba.
“While aware of some of the allegations of mistreatment of inmates said to have provoked the hunger strike – which include undue interference with the inmates’ personal effects — we are still trying to confirm the details,” the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay said.
The Red Cross, which visited the island prison from February 18 to 23, was one of the few international organizations to comment on the situation at the Guantanamo detention camp. It acknowledged that a hunger strike was actually taking place, but so far the organization has only released a statement, stating “The ICRC believes past and current tensions at Guantanamo to be the direct result of the uncertainty faced by detainees.”
Military censorship makes it quite difficult to access any information about Gitmo prisoners. It was the attorneys for the detainees that first expressed urgency and grave concern over the life-threatening mass hunger strike that reportedly started in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on February 6.
According to the Center for Constitutional Rights 130 prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest the alleged confiscation of personal items such as photos and mail and the alleged sacrilegious handling of their Korans.
Prison spokesman Navy Capt. Robert Durand, however, acknowledged only 21 inmates to be on hunger strike. He also denied all allegations of prisoners being mistreated.
Even if not for mistreatment and abuse, prisoners could have started the strike just to draw attention to their being kept in Guantanamo, with the US refusing to repatriate them, despite some being cleared for release.
“There are 166 people at Guantanamo. Of those there are probably 20 guys who are bad guys… like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The other people… more than half of them – 86 of them have been cleared at least for three years and some during the Bush administration – cleared as innocent people. And they are still there and they are frustrated,” says Thomas Wilner, a lawyer, who used to represent some of the Guantanamo detainees in court.
According to Durand, none of the inmates on hunger strike is in immediate health danger.
Lawyers for the prisoners believe otherwise. They have reported some of their clients had weight loss of up to or more than 20 pounds (8kg) and have been hospitalized. Medical experts say that by day 45, hunger strikers can experience potential blindness and partial hearing loss.
The Center for Constitutional Rights and habeas counsel have sent a letter to US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, urging him “to address this growing crisis at Guantánamo before another man dies at the prison, this time under his watch. The hunger strike should be a wake-up call for the Obama Administration, which cannot continue to ignore the human cost of Guantánamo and put off closing the prison any longer.”
Meanwhile, JTF-GTMO announced that flights to the island prison from South Florida will be terminated on April 5. The step is seen by the prisoners’ attorneys as an attempt by the Defense Department to limit access to their clients.
If this developing story ends in deaths I thing we can expect severe repercussions from the Muslim countries.
What are the chances of another oil embargo
A mass hunger strike has been unfolding in the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison for nearly six weeks. RT has been badgering the UN, prison officials, detainees’ attorneys and activists to get a full account of the situation.
The number of Guantanamo Bay detainees on hunger strike has increased to 26, up one from the previous day, Guantanamo Bay spokesman Capt. Robert Durand told RT via email on Friday following a written request.
“As of Friday, 22 March 2013, we have 26 hunger strikers, with 8 receiving enteral feeds. This an increase from Thursday, which was 25/8. Tuesday and Wednesday, it was the 24/8, Monday, 21/8, and Friday, 14/8.
We have two detainees in the detainee hospital for rehydration and observation, on enteral feed. We have two other detainee in the detainee hospital for non-hunger strike, non-life threatening treatment,” Durand said.
The Pentagon has been accused of underestimating the number of inmates on hunger strike. The New-York based Center for Constitutional Rights slammed the US government for “not admitting scale and scope” of the strike, saying they had received reports that 130 inmates were involved in the protest.
It’s going to take the American people to demand Guantanamo Bay prison facilities be closed, former Gitmo prison official Ret. Col. Morris Davis told RT. Until the issue catches the public’s attention, there is little hope for improvement, he says.
“A majority of the men at Guantanamo — 86 of the 106 who have been cleared for transfer — have been in confinement now for more than a decade in some cases,” Davis said. “So to them… the only way to potentially call attention to it is to do something drastic like a hunger strike.”
Meanwhile, US military officials are requesting funding for construction of a new building in Guantanamo Bay, as well as for maintenance on the existing facility. The new project could cost American taxpayers a sum approaching $49 million.
During a conversation with RT Dr. Terry Kupers, a California psychologist and author of Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It, tried to answer some of the same questions that have boggled Guantanamo Bay critics since the prison opened in early 2002. While a hunger strike may initially seem illogical, Kupers praised the inmates for exerting one of the few actions within their capabilities in trying to attract international attention. He also pointed to another less-discussed result of long period of time behind bars: prisoners read up on their rights, learning the legal ramifications of their dire situation.
Among the many prisoners of Camp Delta’s detention facility at Guantanamo Bay one British citizen remains, despite being cleared for release over five years ago. A national of a key US ally, RT recently sought an explanation from the UK government.
Shaker Aamer, the 44-year-old British resident, has been incarcerated at Guantanamo for 11 years without any charges ever brought against him.
A father of four, Saudi national Aamer is the last British citizen remaining in Guantanamo Bay prison, despite being cleared for release as early as 2007.
In his letters, prisoner Shaker Aamer appeals in desperation to his captors and the outside world:
“Please … torture me in the old way. Here they destroy people mentally and physically without leaving marks.”
Following the developments of the hunger strike at Guantanamo detainment facility, RT sent a formal enquiry to the British Foreign Office. In our letter we asked the Foreign Office to comment on the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where a British resident is being kept among detainees, and whether the British government plans to take any measures to resolve the situation.
In a statement answering RT’s inquiry, a spokesperson of Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated the following.
“The UK has long held that indefinite detention without review or fair trial is unacceptable and we welcome President Obama’s continuing commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and to maintain a lawful, sustainable and principled regime for the handling of detainees there.”
The answer contains no exact information neither on the British citizen being held captive in a US prison, nor on the hunger strike of several Guantanamo prisoners that continues for six weeks already.
As for the US President’s ‘continuing commitment’, it was Barack Obama who promised to close down Guantanamo Bay prison during his presidential campaign in 2008 and who has already returned to the White House for his second presidential term, without any change on the horizon. As such blame for alleged mistreatment at Guantanamo appears less easily labeled a President Bush era problem.
In December 2012 the lawyers of Shaker Aamer filed legal papers with both the UK’s home and foreign secretaries claiming that British secret services made “knowingly false statements” to the US authorities concerning their client. According to the filed documents, UK’s MI5 and MI6 claimed Shaker Aamer was recruiting people to fight for Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the 9/11 and that he was paid directly by Bin Laden – without producing any reliable evidence.
Marine Corps General John Kelly, who spoke at the House Armed Services Committee in Washington on Wednesday, gave the reasons behind the prisoners’ hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay. He explained that the prisoners
“had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated apparently … when the president backed off, at least (that’s) their perception, of closing the facility.” He also re-iterated the prison administration’s earlier statement about the desecration of the Koran – a topic of contention and one of the main contributing factors to the ongoing hunger strike – saying that any claims of desecration are “nonsense” . He went on to say that in “no way has the Koran in any way, shape or form been abused or mistreated” and that he had been presented with copies of the “Sacred Koran” by senior Muslim clerics while he was on duty in Iraq. Finally, he added that while it is known that non-believers are allowed to touch the book, the only personnel who had been doing so at Guantanamo were Muslim translators.
Kelly heads the US military’s Southern Command for the Latin America region in Miami. The body also oversees the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba.
Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich tells RT the situation in Guantanamo represents the US as a country “abandoning its constitutional principles, because when prisoners are under US control and discretion they should have the same rights that any other prisoner would have. They should have the right to be told the charges against them, the right to a speedy trial, [the] right to habeas corpus, which would enable them to be released if charges against them can’t be levied.”
Stephen Soldz, clinical psychologist, who was a consultant when previous hunger strikes happened at Guantanamo prison, explains in an interview to RT, that Guantanamo inmates are frustrated to the point they are reluctant to communicate with the only people who are allowed to visit them – their lawyers.
“Those men would tell their attorneys, ‘I don’t want to talk with you. What’s the point of talking with you? I only want to know the date I’m going out of here.’ But there is no date. People can’t accept being completely powerless and hopeless,” Soldz says.
RT received a letter from the US Department of Justice saying it was not authorized to comment upon the Guantanamo hunger strike and suggesting RT to address the Defense Department for any interview regarding the status of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
“The Defense Department oversees the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and is responsible for its operations – not the Justice Department,” said the letter written by Dean Boyd, Spokesman for the US Department of Justice.
However earlier, on March 4, prison spokesman, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, pointed at the Department of Justice as the body to respond to attorneys’ letters.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Konstantin Dolgov, spoke of the need to close Guantanamo in an interview to RT .
“I don’t think there’s lack of reaction from the international community. What’s obviously lacking is political will on behalf of the US government to bring the solution of the problem to its logical end. And the only logical end can be liquidation of this, let’s put it straight, shameful facility,” he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry is concerned with the destiny of a Russian citizen among the Guantanamo detainees.
Famous American human rights activist, Angela Davis calls for closure of Guantanamo in a French daily L’Humanité, AFP reports.
“This tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War makes us, finally, question the further existence of Guantanamo. On this sad date we must come up with a stronger and more resolute call for closure of the Guantanamo prison,” Davis wrote.
Front gate of “Camp Six” detention facility of the Joint Detention Group at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 19, 2012 (AFP Photo / Jim Watson)
The UN Human Rights body responds to mounting media coverage of the Guantanamo crisis. In a letter answering RT’s inquiry, spokesman for the High Commissioner says the office is looking into the details of the mass hunger strike.
“While aware of some of the allegations of mistreatment of inmates said to have provoked the hunger strike – which include undue interference with the inmates’ personal effects – we are still trying to confirm the details,” the letter says.
The statement from the office of the High Commissioner goes on to say UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay has “repeatedly regretted that the US Government has not closed Guantanamo Bay.”
She is concerned with fact that the National Defense Authorization Act has created obstacles for the closure of Guantanamo and also trial of detainees in civilian courts, as well as failure to release those cleared of allegations.
Guantanamo Communications director Captain Robert Durand says the
number of detainees on hunger strike reached 24.
Still, he rejects claims by the detainees’ attorneys that the majority of inmates are involved in the protest.
Navy Capt. Robert Durand says 21 Guantanamo Bay prisoners are now on a hunger strike. Eight men are being fed with a liquid nutrient mix to prevent dangerous weight loss from occurring, while two others are at the prison hospital being treated with dehydration.
In a letter to RT, Durand said “the reports of hunger-strike related deteriorating health and detainees losing massive amounts of weight are simply untrue.”
However, lawyers for Guantanamo inmates maintain the strike is more widespread than the military acknowledges – and a former Gitmo prisoner agrees.
Omar Deghayes was held at Guantanamo Bay for five years before being released without charge. While participating in hunger strikes at the prison, Deghayes recalls hearing the same “rhetoric” from the US military.
“The rhetoric that [Durand] is describing is something that we went through many times when we were inside Guantanamo on hunger strikes. They used to say the same false things that I’m hearing now. They’d say ‘the number is small’ or ‘there is no hunger strike,’ or ‘we treat people with dignity,’” he told RT.
The London Guantanamo Campaign holds a demonstration outside the US embassy in London to “raise awareness about the hunger strike, which has more or less – at least in Britain – been ignored by the mainstream media,” the campaign’s coordinator, Aisha Maniar, tells RT.
“We’ve been in contact with some of the lawyers who have been [to Guantanamo] over the last week and they’ve been reporting that when they have met their clients, that their health has been pretty poor,” Maniar says.
Attorneys for at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, say that a general hunger strike involving many of the 166 detainees who remain incarcerated there has entered its second month.
However, the US military strongly denies that claim, calling it “a fabrication,” and instead says only 14 detainees are actively engaged in hunger strikes detrimental to their health.
“Our understanding is that based on previous standards, the determination of who is a hunger striker is a discretionary determination that Guantanamo makes. What those standards are, what the criteria are, are questions that they need to be asked. How are they defining hunger striker and when are they determining that someone needs to be tube fed? And if the definition of hunger striker is entirely in their control and it is a matter of their discretion, then I think that explains how they are able to say that there are no more than a handful of men on hunger strike,” Pardiss Kebriaei, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents a Yemeni detained at Guantanamo, tells RT.
Guantanamo detention center spokesperson, Navy Capt. Robert Durand said in a letter to RT that the number of protesting inmates reached 14 people, five more than they had previously reported. He however stressed “the reports of hunger-strike related deteriorating health and detainees losing massive amounts of weight are simply untrue.”
Durand also stated one of the strikers was taken to the prison hospital, five others were being fed through tubes put through their noses into their stomachs, while eight others are not yet sufficiently malnourished to merit such treatment.
Durand denied that the hunger strike is “a widespread phenomenon, as alleged,” by the captives’ lawyers, and accused them of spreading “outright falsehoods and gross exaggerations.” He downplayed the reports of a mass hunger strike at Gitmo, saying that most of the alleged strikers are skipping regular meals, but substituting them with snacks.
“Refusing prepared meals and choosing to subsist for a time on snack foods does not constitute a hunger strike,” Durand said.
Durand confirmed the reports that some of the detainees had their Korans taken from them, but called it an attempt at manipulation: “If we accept their Koran, it would be portrayed as either an admission that it required protection and safekeeping, or as a confiscation by the guard force, depriving them of the religious articles needed to practice their faith.”
He also insisted that all searches are conducted in a regular way, and that no mistreatment of Muslim holy books has taking place at Gitmo.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which visited the island prison from February 18 to 23, gave an interview to RT, saying that the “ICRC believes past and current tensions at Guantanamo to be the direct result of the uncertainty faced by detainees.”
The secrecy maintained by the prison and the communication barriers in place have been an obstacle for human rights organizations for years, Rob Freer of Amnesty International told in an interview to RT.
“We have to wait until a detainee is released, before we can speak to them. This leads to underreporting on individual detainee cases and at least to a time lag. The lawyers themselves are not there the whole time and it requires declassification of certain information when they do get to,” he said.
The health of prisoners held in Kafkaesque limbo at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has deteriorated alarmingly after over 100 inmates went on a protest hunger strike five weeks ago.
The detainees have claimed that most of them are involved in the do-or-die hunger strike, and their attorneys have become concerned about the prisoners’ worsening health.
“By Day 45 we understand from medical experts there are serious health repercussions that start happening. Loss of hearing, potential blindness,” Pardiss Kebriaei, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents a Yemeni detained at Guantanamo, tells RT. “The potential there is for death as well if the hunger strike continues for weeks.”
Her client has allegedly lost 20lbs (9kg) since the beginning of the strike. The collective protest was reportedly triggered by the prison staff’s seizure of the inmates’ personal belongings. The hunger strike began on February 6, with the prisoners protesting against the confiscation of their personal letters, photographs and legal mail, as well as the allegedly sacrilegious handling of their Korans during searches of their cells.
The real challenge for the detainees is to make themselves heard by means of the hunger strike. Their lawyers have sent a letter to the US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to take action to end the protest.
“It’s really an abominable humanitarian situation where you’re depriving these people of life and liberty and for no really valid basis,” detainee lawyer Eric Montalvo told RT.
Prison officials have acknowledged that the hunger strike is taking place. However, they deny that it is a large-scale event: Nine detainees are refusing food, five of whom are being fed through tubes inserted into their stomachs, according to Robert Durand, director of public affairs for the Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
Durand also said that the claims of desecration of the Koran were unfounded.
“To be clear: there have been no incidents of desecration of the Koran by guards or translators, and nothing unusual happened during a routine search for contraband,” he told AFP.
Reuters started reporting on the Gitmo hunger strike.
The detainee hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay’s maximum-security prison is a last-resort cry for help from those who have spent years in custody without being charged, and who have no hope of release, anti-war activist Sara Flounders tells RT.
“What we did last week was send a letter on behalf of the attorneys who have received direct information, asking questions and reporting what we have heard from our clients to the authorities at Guantanamo, and copying the Department of Justice. Asking for their side of the story and to respond, seeking a quick resolution to what’s going on. We’ve received no response from that letter so far. At this point, the strike is more than 30 days old and by Day 45, we understand from medical experts there are serious health repercussions that start happening,” Pardiss Kebriaei, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents a Yemeni detained at Guantanamo, tells RT.
Meanwhile, geopolitical analyst Ryan Dawson tells RT that the prisoners were left with little recourse other than a hunger strike. The prisoners had a previous hunger strike in 2005, which led to the hospitalization of 18 people.
“What I find disgusting in this one is the US is denying the strike is as large as it is and downplaying it, saying its only a few inmates but they’ve had to admit that at least five are being force-fed through tubes in their stomachs, so this is obviously real…Its hard to get lower than Guantanamo Bay. A lot of these men are detained without trial, some without even charges. That doesn’t mean they’re innocent, but it doesn’t mean they’re guilty either. And the problem is secrecy. When you have this level of secrecy, you’re just creating an environment for abuse because they are basically human beings with no rights,” Dawson said.
“My client and other men have reported that most of the detainees in Camp 6 are on strike, except for a small few who are elderly or sick,” Pardiss Kebriaei, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents a Yemeni detained at Guantanamo, Pardiss Kebriaei tells RT. Men have reported coughed up blood, lost consciousness and were forced to move to other wings of the facility for observation.
“We have to understand that all the inmates at Guantanamo bay are devout Muslims so desecrating a Koran for them is the last blow to their dignity. It is of extreme importance to them and according to them they are imprisoned because they are Muslim and that’s kind of proving their point. Unfortunately that’s something that was quite common under [President George W.] Bush. We thought [President] Obama would be more thoughtful to Muslim beliefs but we are seeing that’s not the case…for people who have been incarcerated for 11 years, been away from their families for 11 years, have not been charged for for 11 years, its understandable that taking what is a small item to us is nothing, but to them it is basically their life… the main question is not why they are being treated like that in prison, but why are they in prison, because they have been cleared for release,” Arnaud Mafille, an activist with Cageprisoners Human Rights group, tells RT.
“The current tensions in Guantanamo, as far as we can see and as far as we understand, are really the result of the uncertainty faced by the detainees in Guantanamo – the uncertainty linked to their fate, what is going to happen to them. There is a lack of clear, legal framework for their dentition. Most of them don’t know what is going to happen to them. So it has always been our position that there needs to be a clear, legal framework and a transparent process in terms of procedural safeguards for the detainees. It needs to be transparent and fair to alleviate the emotional and mental strain that the uncertainty triggers for the detainees,” Simon Schorno, spokesperson for the International Red Cross in North America, tells RT
Washington-based attorney David Remes tells CBS News that as of March 8, six detainees he represents had refused food for 36 days, skipping 102 meals, and each man said he had lost at least 30lbs (13.6kg).
“It was quite noticeable,” Remes says. “The men I saw were weak, tired, chilled, and had lost a substantial amount of weight.”
One of those detainees, Yasin Qassem Muhammad Ismail, from Yemen, who followed up with a phone call to Remes on Wednesday, told the attorney that he now weighed 109lbs (49kg), down from 150lbs (68kg).
After meeting their client, Fayiz al-Kandari’s team of military lawyers report that al-Kandari said that the hunger strike “certainly hurts physically,” but he felt “very sorry for his parents whose psychological pain is 10 times greater than his physical discomfort.”
Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents a Yemeni detained at Guantanamo, says attorney reports of the hunger strike are consistent.
“What we understand for our clients – and this is coming from every attorney that has either been down to Guantanamo since February or has communicated with their client in some form through letters or phone calls – is that there has been a hunger strike going on at among almost all of the men in Camp 6 at Guantanamo, which is the largest facility at Guantanamo. They have been refusing all food, only drinking water, tea, and coffee, since early February,” Pardiss Kebriaei tells RT.
America’s infamous Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba has reportedly become the scene of a widespread hunger strike – now in its third week – yet on Monday a prison spokesman denied that any such activity was taking place.
The lawyers for the prisoners said in a letter to the prison commander, that “all but a few men” are on hunger strike and that their condition “appears to be rapidly deteriorating and reaching a potentially critical level.”
The protest can best be summed up with a statement that the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent to military officials. They wrote that “since approximately February 6, 2013, camp authorities have been confiscating detainees’ personal items, including blankets, sheets, towels, mats, razors, toothbrushes, books, family photos, religious CDs, and letters, including legal mail; and restricting their exercise, seemingly without provocation or cause.” Moreover, “Arabic interpreters employed by the prison have been searching the men’s Korans in ways that constitute desecration according to their religious beliefs, and that guards have been disrespectful during prayer times.”
A prison spokesman said that the Department of Justice will address the lawyers’ letter of complaint, he also claimed that there had only been six people on strike for a year now. Other detainees simply didn’t skip enough meals to be considered on strike at all, according to military rules. The spokesman, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, said that “some detainees have attempted to coordinate a hunger strike and have refused meal deliveries. Most detainees are not participating.” He tried to describe the reasons the inmates had for going on strike as blown out of proportion, claiming that they “have chosen one routine search in early February as the rallying point for their grievances.”
Colonel Barry Waingard, who was assigned by the Pentagon to defend the Kuwaiti detainee at Guantanamo prison Fayez Al-Kandari, reveals that the Kuwaiti detainees Fayez Al-Kandari and Fawzi Al-Awda went on a hunger strike with other prisoners and lost nearly 10kg each, Al-Watan Arabic daily reported.
Waingard said in a statement that the detainees went on a hunger strike because they are being ill-treated inside the prison, indicating at the same time that the detainees have now realized death is the only way out of the prison.
The lawyers confirm that Fayiz al-Kandari’s weight loss over the previous three-and-a-half weeks had reached 26lbs (12kg).
The team of lawyers reports, “Today, we had a communication with the Kuwait legal team concerning Fayiz and Fawzi’s physical condition in GTMO. It is difficult meeting with a man who has not eaten in almost three weeks, but we are scheduled for an all-day session tomorrow which we are sure Fayiz will not be able to complete due his failing physical condition. Additionally, we learned that our other client Abdul Ghani, [an Afghan] who has been cleared for release since 2010, is also on a hunger strike. Eleven years without an opportunity to defend themselves.”
Fayiz al-Kandari’s team of military lawyers announces, “Fayiz has lost more than 20lbs (9kg) and lacks the ability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time due to a camp-wide hunger strike. Apparently there is a dispute over searches and the confiscations. We believe there is a desperation setting amongst the prisoners whereby GTMO is forgotten and its condemned men will never get an opportunity to prove their innocence or be free.”
Fayiz al-Kandari’s team of military lawyers arrives at the prison.
Reports first begin to emerge about a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.
The following message appeared on the “Free Fayiz and Fawzi” page on Facebook, run by lawyers for Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, the last two Kuwaitis in the prison: “Information is beginning to come out about a hunger strike, the size of which has not been seen since 2008. Preliminary word is that it’s due to unprecedented searches and a new guard force.”
The Guantanamo Bay hunger strike reportedly began on or around this date.
An inmate hunger strike at Guantanamo prison has entered its 40th day, with more than 100 reportedly taking part. Experts warn of health risks over a strike prompted by the confiscation of prisoners’ belongings and rough handling of Korans.
The prisoners’ lawyers, along with other experts and former detainees, are sounding the alarm over the inmates’ critical condition. “They are indeed threatening their own lives, putting their lives on the line in this heroic effort to express a sense of autonomy, outrage at being imprisoned in what can be characterized as nothing less than the American sort of medieval torture chamber,” anthropologist Mark Mason, who studies the cultural factors behind human suffering, told RT.
“We have here conditions where 166 people are imprisoned, more of half of them cleared, they should be out to the streets, free today,” Mason added. “I frankly cannot describe some of the horrific conditions and treatment and humiliation that many detainees have reported. They have been stripped and required to stand around in cold rooms for hours naked. This is itself a physical stressor, but it is almost unspeakable psychological torture.”
“We are humans, we are not eagles in a bag of skin, we relate to each other, we need human contact and relationships to be healthy psychologically and physically,” he said.
Mason claimed that the US lives in a “distortion zone,” where “people imprisoned in Guantanamo should be free while the president, our former president, vice president and bankers in the US and Wall Street should be in jail.”
US President Barack Obama began his first term by announcing his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Now, just two months into his second term, the prison has entered its 12th year of operation with 166 detainees still languishing behind bars and a reported 130 on a life-threatening hunger strike.
9- to 12-year-old kids detained and tortured in Guantanamo?
Former Guantanamo detainee Murat Kurnaz described to RT the horrible conditions he faced while being detained there, and explained the reasons behind the hunger strike.
“I have been tortured in different kinds of ways. There are no human rights over there. That means they could do whatever they wanted to with us,” Kurnaz said. “They tortured me to force me to sign papers and every time I’ve refused, they kept on torturing me in different kind of ways.”
“They really tried everything to break us including psychological and physical torture. I myself got tortured by electroshocks and waterboarding. I have seen also kids 9 years and 12 years old inside the camp. It was very difficult to watch how those kids getting beaten up in front of me,” he added.
Kurnaz argued that detainees have “many justified reasons” to go on a hunger strike:“It is a bad situation, prisoners want to go to court and want their rights back. They don’t have the opportunity to go to the court or see their families. They do not have the right to write or receive letters.”
The state of legal limbo was also frustrating for Kurnaz, who was determined to be innocent by the US but had to spend an extra five years in detention because Germany refused to take him back.
“Their hunger strikes are the only way they have of making themselves heard. Years and years without any hope of release. Without any real charges,” political writer and activist Sara Flounders told RT.
Lawyers for the Guantanamo prisoners said the men began the hunger strike on February 6 in protest against the alleged confiscation of personal items such as photographs and personal mail, as well as the alleged sacrilegious handling of their Korans during searches of their cells.
The Center for Constitutional Rights said that they have received reports of detainees coughing up blood, losing consciousness, losing more than twenty pounds of weight and being hospitalized. Medical experts have predicted that by the 45th day of a hunger strike, participants can experience hearing loss and potential blindness – on top of the psychological suffering they have endured for more than a decade.
The UN issued a statement this week that the US is violating international human rights law by holding detainees indefinitely and without charge.
An investigative arm of the Pentagon has termed Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange, currently holed up and claiming asylum in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London for fear he will be deported to Sweden and thence to the US, and his organization, both “enemies” of the United States.
The Age newspaper in Melbourne Australia is reporting that documents obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act from the Pentagon disclose that an investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, a counter-intelligence unit, of a military cyber systems analyst based in Britain who had reportedly expressed support for Wikileaks and had attended a demonstration in support of Assange, refers to the analyst as having been “communicating with the enemy, D-104.” The D-104 classification refers to an article of the US Uniform Military Code of Military Justice which prohibits military personnel from “communicating, corresponding or holding intercourse with the enemy.”
This is pretty dangerous language to have, referring to an Australian citizen who many consider to be no more than a working journalist who has been gather information from whistleblowers and disseminating that information to the public. As David Cole, a civil liberties attorney in the US associated with the Center for Constitutional Rights, notes, “The US military is not at war with Wikileaks or with Julian Assange.”
Certainly if a member of the US military were to go to a news organization like the New York Times — or the Melbourne Age for that matter — and leak some kind of damaging secret information exposing US military war crimes, it is inconceivable that the military would call that “communicating with the enemy.” In any case, the military leaker could easily be charged under the military code with offenses like revealing national security secrets or some other serious charge, which would not involve charging any media organization that received information.
The decision by the Pentagon to instead use the D-104 violation to classify Assange as an “enemy” in this context is dangerous because since 9-11-2001, the US government, with the general consent of the courts, has been treating “enemies” of the state in some very frightening extra-judicial ways. Enemies of the US these days can be summarily arrested and taken away to black-site prisons or to a place like Guantanamo without even a requirement that any notice be given to friends or relatives. They can be locked up indefinitely and denied access to a lawyer. They can even be subjected to what is euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation
For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1365