WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–June 6 – The US authorities at Guantanamo have publicly denied that they are force feeding hunger-striking detainees. While detainees continue to describe being force-fed.
In a BBC Radio 4 Today report from the prison, Colonel John Bogdan – who is in charge of the prison camp – denied that the US is force-feeding detainees on hunger-strike. When BBC reporter Jonathan Beale, reporting from the camp, said:“I’d call it force-feeding” Colonel Bogdan, replied: “It’s a bit of semantics…it is a medical procedure. We do this enteral feeding to regular patients in regular hospitals who need to be fed.”
Marine General John Kelly – Chief of the US Southern Command – also recently denied that the US engages in force-feeding, a practice denounced by the American Medical Association, the World Medical Association and the UN, saying: “We don’t force-feed right now at Gitmo.”
Yet detainees who are being force-fed continue to describe the process to their lawyers in phone calls, letters and during legal visits. Up to 140 detainees are now on hunger strike and the force-feeding figures are steadily rising – to 41 in the main camps this morning, according to the US military.
Reprieve client Abu Wa’el told one of his lawyers on a recent phone call. “I am protesting peacefully and they are taking me forcefully…they brought ERF and starting force-feeding, forcefully…they take me forcefully to feed me…all I am doing is a peaceful protest…but they are putting me on a force-feeding chair. Really, it should be called a torture chair and not a feeding chair.”
Another of Reprieve’s clients, Ahmed Belbacha, has said: “Later, they began feeding me through the nose The guard entered the tube through my nose, and then pumped the feeder. The food rushed into my stomach too quickly and I started to feel ill. I asked him to reduce the speed. He not only refused, but tried to turn it up.”
In a recently published op-ed in the New York Times, Samir Mokbel described the process: “I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and counsel for several hunger-strikers, said: “If the commander-in-chief calls it force-feeding, you’d think those below him would take note. Instead the military ‘PR’ strategy is to peddle an alternative reality that no one believes. My clients are protesting their indefinite detention using the only tool at their disposal: a hunger strike. They don’t want to be fed. And yet detainees are being brutally force-fed. It’s a fact.”
Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.
Was he surprised, asked Bill Plante of CBS News, that the 100 or so prisoners who were participating in the protest preferred death over indefinite confinement?
Tapping his finger on the lectern and speaking in a clipped cadence, Obama did not mince words in response. “Guantanamo is not necessary to keep us safe,” he said. “It is expensive. It is inefficient… It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”
He then pledged to rededicate himself to the challenge of shutting the prison. “I’m going to go back at this,” he bluntly resolved.
For anyone who has followed the saga of Guantanamo Bay over the past few years, Obama’s words were nothing short of shocking. It had been a long time since his efforts to close Gitmo had collapsed — done in by congressional obstruction, by political realities, and even, to an extent, by Obama himself.
During the intervening period, there had been little evidence that Obama cared to return to the issue. He hadn’t uttered the word Guantanamo in a State of the Union address since 2009. Nor was there even anybody in charge of driving the initiative. The prevailing attitude toward Gitmo within the White House administration seemed to be “out of sight, out of mind”.
Like the 166 prisoners languishing in the facility, the president’s policy seemed entirely stuck in limbo.
Now Obama, with no public warning, had suddenly committed himself to making another run at what had thus far proved to be the most Sisyphean of all his policy goals. Could he possibly have meant what he said? Was he really ready to restart this particular political fight?
In a word, yes. According to three administration sources, the president’s sudden rhetorical plunge back into the Guantanamo morass reflected a calculated, highly personal decision — one borne of both frustration at his team and a measure of personal regret about his failure to solve the problem sooner.
It all dates to March, when Obama started seeing disturbing reports about the hunger strike at the prison. Twice daily, detainees were being shackled at the wrists and ankles to restraint chairs and force-fed by Navy medics, a process that involved snaking long tubes through their nasal passages, down the backs of their throats, and into their stomachs to pump in cans of Ensure, a nutritional supplement. The painful procedure often provokes gagging and vomiting.
Meanwhile, John Kelly, the marine general overseeing Guantanamo, made a stunning admission before a congressional committee on Mar 20: He attributed the hunger strike directly to the perception that Obama, after promising to close the prison, had given up, effectively abandoning the detainees.
“They were devastated when the president backed off — at least their perception — of closing the facility,” he testified.
According to one presidential adviser, Obama, troubled by what he was hearing, began digging back into his policy to see where things stood and what else could be done. What followed was a flurry of activity. Shutting down the facility would likely entail freeing some prisoners, transferring some to jails in other countries, prosecuting some, and moving still others — those being held indefinitely — to US prisons.
To rally public support for this effort, Newsweek has learned, Obama plans to give a major speech partly devoted to the subject, possibly as soon as later this month. “Obama has no illusions about how hard this is,” says a former administration official. “But he also knows that he will own this bit of history just as much as George Bush does” — if, that is, he doesn’t make substantial progress toward fixing it.
Throughout his presidency, pleas for action on Guantanamo from civil libertarians, friends, and top advisers have reportedly tugged at Obama’s conscience. But politics and a weary fatalism subsumed action nearly every time.
One recent plea, two sources told Newsweek, came from Hillary Clinton, who, just before she left office in Jan 2013, sent a two-page confidential memo to Obama about Guantanamo. Clinton had, during her years in the administration, occasionally jumped into the fray to push the issue. One of those occasions was at a White House meeting of Obama’s national security principals in Aug t 2010. “We are throwing the president’s commitment to close Guantanamo into the trash bin,” she chastised White House aides.
“We are doing him a disservice by not working harder on this.”
But, at the end of the day, Clinton had little leverage to get the White House to act. Now, in one of her last moves as secretary of state, she was making a final effort to prod her boss to do more. Her memo was replete with practical suggestions for moving ahead.
Chief among them: Obama needed to appoint a high-level official to be in charge of the effort, someone who had clout and proximity to the Oval Office. Further, Clinton argued that Obama could start transferring the 86 detainees who had already been cleared for release.
The Clinton missive perturbed White House aides, who viewed it as an attempt to put them on the spot. It’s unclear how Obama himself reacted to the memo; there’s no evidence it spurred him to action. But the mere fact Clinton felt the need to write it was noteworthy, because it suggested the degree to which Guantanamo remained an irritant for her and many other high-level administration officials as well.
One of Obama’s very first tactical moves on Guantanamo backfired spectacularly. His plan to bring to the US a handful of detainees — Chinese Uighurs who were cleared by the courts — caused a political furore. Obama pulled the plug on the plan, and Congress soon began passing measures to restrict transfers out of Gitmo.
For Obama’s advisers, the episode demonstrated that the toxic politics of terrorism could overwhelm the administration’s domestic agenda; for civil libertarians, it was an ominous sign that Obama lacked the political will to aggressively engage Congress.
Even some of Obama’s top national-security aides were frustrated with the White House’s timid approach toward Congress. John Brennan — then Obama’s counter-terrorism czar, now his CIA chief — believed the administration needed to show more backbone in its dealings with Congress.
Brennan’s outrage was fuelled by the knowledge that many detainees, who were still at Guantanamo after years of detention, had no record of terrorism.
A few weeks after the Uighur debacle, Obama made his first attempt to save his faltering Guantanamo policy: in a sweeping address he laid out a detailed plan for closing the prison. But in the end, however eloquent, it was only a speech. It did not push the policy forward.
Things only got worse from there. On Christmas Day 2009, the so-called underwear bomber attempted to bring down a plane over Detroit — a plot directed by al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate. The near miss took a powerful psychic toll on the White House, still dogged by the perception that Democrats were weak on national security.
Obama became convinced that he could not send any of the nearly 100 Yemeni detainees at Gitmo back to their home country, for fear they would link up with extremists and begin plotting attacks against America. Suddenly, the fate of the Yemenis was another giant obstacle to closing the prison.
Then came the unravelling of Attorney General Eric Holder’s plans to try some Gitmo detainees, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in New York. Obama had initially backed Holder’s decision. But when it blew up in Congress, he seemed to equivocate.
His own chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, actually worked behind the scenes with Republican senators to undermine Holder’s initiative, according to multiple sources. Once the plan showed cracks, lawmakers smelled blood. They began passing ever more restrictive legislation tying the administration’s hands on Guantanamo.
For much of the past few years, without any signal that Obama was going to fight on Gitmo, the policy drifted.
Even the steps Obama took to move things forward were of a highly limited nature. One of those steps came in Mar 2011, when Obama issued an executive order designed to solve a thorny problem.
Forty-eight of the detainees could not be prosecuted, either for lack of evidence or because they had been tortured — yet were nonetheless considered too dangerous to release.
This meant they had to be held in indefinite detention, a prospect that troubled Obama. His compromise, issued via executive order, was to set up Periodic Review Boards — administrative bodies that would allow such prisoners to challenge their incarceration, including by presenting new evidence.
It was hardly ideal from a civil liberties perspective. And Obama was worried about the precedent he’d be setting by embracing a regime of detention without trial, likening it to leaving behind a “loaded weapon” for future presidents. But at least the review boards would give detainees some limited version of due process — and the possibility, however remote, of being transferred or released.
Fast forward to now. As Obama, concerned about the hunger strike, began looking into the issue, he found something that, according to officials, infuriated him: Two years after his Mar 2011 executive order, the Periodic Review Boards had not yet gotten off the ground, despite that the order had called for them to be up and running within a year.
Some Obama officials shifted blame to the CIA, which they said had slowed down the process.
One source directly involved in the controversy says CIA officials were balking at sharing any more information about the agency’s infamous detention and interrogation programme — a subject that would have likely come up during review-board hearings.
As word of Obama’s reaction filtered back though the national security agencies, a new effort was launched to resolve the interagency disputes over the review boards. And a frustrated Obama directed his staff to redouble its efforts to identify creative solutions to the Guantanamo conundrum, including measures he could take unilaterally.
Today, many of the options on the table are the ones spelled out in the Clinton memo several months ago.
But the reality, of course, is that Obama cannot close Gitmo by himself. He’s going to need Congress to sign off. And therein lies the central challenge. To date, the public’s emotional response to terrorism has made Gitmo a ripe target for political demagoguery on Capitol Hill.
So how to cajole self-interested lawmakers to take a major political risk on behalf of 166 men who have little or no constituency? Obama’s answer seems to be that he is going to make his case to the public.
In the coming days, Obama plans to address both Guantanamo and drones — another festering, controversial element of the administration’s national security agenda — in a broad “framing” speech that will try to knit together an overarching approach to counterterrorism. In the speech, Obama plans to lay out a legal framework for the administration’s evolving strategies on targeting, detention, and prosecution, according to two senior officials who have been briefed on its contents. The delicate process of putting together such a major presidential statement has apparently taken months and involved arduous interagency wrangling. It had been scheduled for last month but was then abruptly rescheduled. Sources say Obama wants to use the speech to take stock of the war on terror in the wake of such seminal events as the killing of bin Laden and the looming withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The speech could serve as the White House’s opening shot in its campaign to solve the Guantanamo riddle. But Obama’s critics will be sceptical — likely branding it another attempt to bend the arc of history with mere eloquence.
It would fit a pattern on rule-of-law issues, they say, in which Obama’s lofty rhetoric is rarely followed by resolute action — especially when it comes to standing up to Congress. According to this narrative, Obama expresses righteous indignation, but then is persuaded by his political team that the time is not right to fight.
Or he threatens to veto legislation that shackles him on Guantanamo, but then fails to go through with the threat. The dynamic, critics say, creates a self-fulfilling cycle that emboldens congressional Republicans and weakens the president.
His supporters argue that instead of giving up, Obama has shifted to a long-road strategy, which sometimes requires backing down from epic confrontations in the hope that over time the politics will turn his way.
In at least one area — prosecuting suspected terrorists in civilian courts — that approach may be working. Though Obama caved to criticism and backed down on trying KSM in court back in 2011, he subsequently decided to have a string of captured terrorists tried in the civilian justice system, the latest being Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston bomber. Over time, the criticism has dwindled to barely a peep.
Will Obama stand up to Congress on Gitmo during his second term?
Even some civil libertarians — Obama’s fiercest critics on Guantanamo — are optimistic that he has built up the resolve to finally fix the situation. “I am more optimistic this time around, because he’s no longer naive about the politics,” says David Cole, a professor of constitutional law and national security at Georgetown.
“He’s lived through four years of stalemate on this, so the fact that he was nonetheless as strong and passionate about his concerns suggests to me that he really has made a renewed commitment to take it on.”
Whether or not Cole is right, Gitmo does appear for now at least to have Obama’s attention again. Indeed, if there’s a silver lining in the events of the past four years for civil libertarians, it’s that, while Obama hasn’t figured out a way to close Gitmo, he also hasn’t figured out a way, in his own mind, to let the issue go.
* Daniel Klaidman is the national political correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast and the author of Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency.
What are the implications for the US if the hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay result in death?
The result will be widespread rioting in the Muslim world. The deaths will further fuel the resolve and enhance the aims of Muslim terrorists. A possible fragmentation of what friends the US has left in the Middle East is also a possible outcome
On May 5, 1981, imprisoned Irish Catholic militant Bobby Sands dies after refusing food for 66 days in protest of his treatment as a criminal rather than a political prisoner by British authorities. His death immediately kicked-off widespread rioting in Belfast, as young Irish-Catholic militants clashed with police and British Army patrols and started fires. Bobby Sands was born into a Catholic family in a Protestant area of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1954. In 1972, sectarian violence forced his family to move to public housing in a Catholic area, where Sands was recruited by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). The Provisional IRA, formed in 1969 after a break with the Official IRA, advocated violence and terrorism as a means of winning independence for Northern Ireland from Britain. (The Provisional IRA, the dominant branch, is generally referred to as simply the IRA.) After independence, according to the IRA, Northern Ireland would be united with the Republic of Ireland in a socialist Irish republic. In 1972, Sands was arrested and convicted of taking part in several IRA robberies. Because he was convicted for IRA activities, he was given “special category status” and sent to a prison that was more akin to a prisoner of war camp because it allowed freedom of dress and freedom of movement within the prison grounds. He spent four years there. After less than a year back on the streets, Sands was arrested in 1977 for gun possession near the scene of an IRA bombing and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Because the British government had enacted a policy of “criminalization” of Irish terrorists in 1976, Sands was imprisoned as a dangerous criminal in the Maze Prison south of Belfast. During the next few years, from his cell in the Maze, he joined other imprisoned IRA terrorists in protests demanding restoration of the freedoms they had previously enjoyed under special category status. In 1980, a hunger strike lasted 53 days before it was called off when one of the protesters fell into a coma. In response, the British government offered a few concessions to the prisoners, but they failed to deliver all they had promised and protests resumed. Sands did not take a direct part in the 1980 strike, but he acted as the IRA-appointed leader and spokesperson of the protesting prisoners. On March 1, 1981 (the fifth anniversary of the British policy of criminalization) Bobby Sands launched a new hunger strike. He took only water and salt, and his weight dropped from 70 to 40 kilos. After two weeks, another protester joined the strike, and six days after that, two more. On April 9, in the midst of the strike, Sands was elected to a vacant seat in the British Parliament from Fermanagh and South Tyrone in Northern Ireland. Parliament subsequently introduced legislation to disqualify convicts serving prison sentences for eligibility for Parliament. His election and fears of violence after his death drew international attention to Sands’ protest. In the final week of his life, Pope John Paul II sent a personal envoy to urge Sands to give up the strike. He refused. On May 3, he fell into a coma, and in the early morning of May 5 he died. Fighting raged for days in Belfast, and tens of thousands attended his funeral on May 7. After Sands’ death, the hunger strike continued, and nine more men perished before it was called off on October 3, 1981, under pressure from Catholic Church leaders and the prisoners’ families. In the aftermath of the strike, the administration of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher agreed to give in to several of the protesters’ demands, including the right to wear civilian clothing and the right to receive mail and visits. Prisoners were also allowed to move more freely and no longer were subject to harsh penalties for refusing prison work. Official recognition of their political status, however, was not granted.
The hunger strike by prisoners held at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo, Cuba, is growing, as their fight against abusive conditions and open-ended detention gains international attention.
The number of prisoners reported on hunger strike increased sharply following an April 13 raid by U.S. soldiers that put nearly every detainee into solitary lockdown.
The hunger strike began Feb. 6 after guards went through prisoners’ Korans, supposedly in search of contraband. Soldiers also seized “comfort items” such as family pictures and mail.
By April 27 some 100 of the 166 remaining Guantánamo prisoners were refusing to eat, according to U.S. officials. Attorneys for some detainees say the figure is actually closer to 130. The military is currently force-feeding 23 prisoners through their nostrils. Five of them have been hospitalized.
American Medical Association President Dr. Jeremy Lazarus stated in an April 25 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that “force feeding of detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession,” according to the Miami Herald.
“There is a growing problem of more and more detainees on a hunger strike,” Dianne Feinstein, Democratic senator and chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote in an April 25 letter to President Barack Obama’s national security director. Feinstein requested the administration review the status of the 86 detainees cleared for release or transfer in the past, to find “suitable places to continue to hold or resettle these detainees either in their home countries or third countries.”
The International Red Cross also sent a delegation to the Guantánamo prison at the end of April for an “assessment visit.”
Some media coverage of the Guantánamo hunger strike has recalled the worldwide attention and political embarrassment for the U.K. created by the 1981 hunger strike by Bobby Sands and other Irish prisoners, 10 of whom died. Imprisoned in northern Ireland, they refused food to press their demand to be treated as political prisoners by the government of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
At an April 30 White House news conference Obama said he thinks the Guantánamo prison should be closed. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing,” he said. “I don’t want these people to die.”
A total of 779 detainees have spent time in Guantánamo since January 2002, when then President George W. Bush opened the prison camp following the Sept. 11, 2001, bombings of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Some 613 of these have been released or transferred, most under the Bush administration, and nine have died.
Despite a January 2009 presidential executive order pledging to close the prison within a year, it has remained open. In May 2009, Obama ordered the resumption of military tribunals for some prisoners, after initially suspending their use, and affirmed that certain detainees would be held indefinitely without charges.
In November 2009 the administration made a short-lived attempt to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators in federal court for the Sept. 11 attacks. The five prisoners are now being tried by a military commission in Guantánamo, along with a sixth, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, charged in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.
A month later Obama halted the transfer of further Guantánamo prisoners to Yemen, following an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner that was traced to al-Qaeda’s branch in that country.
“There are 86 prisoners approved by Obama’s own task force for transfer. But until the hunger strike started, Obama was sitting back and doing nothing,” Andy Worthington, a British journalist who has written extensively on Guantánamo, said in a phone interview.
Supporters of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still imprisoned in Guantánamo, demonstrated April 24 outside Parliament in London, to demand his release. More than 117,000 people signed an online petition calling on the British government to take “new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the U.K.,” which prompted a parliamentary debate on his detention. Families and other supporters of the Yemeni detainees have also held protests demanding their freedom.
President Barack Obama has made a clear and convincing case for closing Guantanamo! Mostly the same reasons finally articulate were just as true when he initially took office. Closing the stigma of war, crime and national shame has always been a high agenda item for many Americans. It is now the watermark battle ground that could begin to show who or what really runs this country. But think of the mindless excuses from war hawks (including complicity by the mainstream media) to try to stop any transparency about Guantanamo prisoners. But there is simply no way President Obama can close this base on his own without major and active U.S. citizen and world support. How can Congress possibly stand in the way of the reasons President Obama announced for closing the Bush Legacy? Where is the Free Speech movement, where are the campus protests at Madison and Kent State Ohio?
Closing Guantanamo—Why it’s Symbolically, Spiritually and Materially Important.
By Scott Skein
Finally. President Barack Obama has made a clear and convincing case for closing Guantanamo! Yet many Americans expected, or assumed, it would have closed early in his first term—that is to say the case was already self-evident. After all it was one reason this president was elected our new leader—to reverse the criminality and immorality of the Bush Administration. Mostly the same reasons finally articulate were just as true when he initially took office. (See Obama Remembers Gitmo Exists Says ‘Not Necessary’ for American Safety by Lucy Steigewald at AntiWar.com April 30, 2013.)
Closing the stigma of war, crime and national shame has always been a high agenda item for many Americans. It is now the watermark battle ground that could begin to show who or what really runs this country—certain special interests (that elected legislators really represent) and the Pentagon/ CIA or The People of this country. In essence it is our own form of Berlin Wall (and to think Dick Cheney’s company played a part in building it).
As of yet Washington D.C.’s beltway pattern of high corruption level and willful distortion to truth continues to reign supreme. Think about it: Why has there been so much resistance to closing Gulag Gitmo; or getting those prisoners a fair and/or public trial (rather than so much hoopla about defining them as enemy combatants); or treating them halfway decently before declared guilty by a fair trial, etc., (in our covert world of black ops prisons with the help of “extraordinary” renditions. It seems the whole war on terror has become terrorism?
And likely it’s not because most of those people were, or are, all that dangerous—but rather it is that truth itself that is dangerous—that is a greater truth to which 9/11 was forged to serve—once it happened and could be quickly capitalized. It was always about avoiding the laws of our country and international treaties.
Several contingency groups benefited from 9/11 (see essay “9/11: Who Really Benefited?” by Captain America found on the Internet). Three powerful contingencies that benefited are: 1) investors of the military industrial complex and related private contractors and mercenary groups who literally have made a killing since, 2) investors (that is owners of securities) of major oil companies, and 3) Zionists who wanted to further make U.S. foreign policy equivalent to what was, and still is, really the policy goals of right-wing Zionists—such as to get Americans to believe all of Israel’s enemies are equally enemies of the people of the United States (even if most Americans are not Jewish or Israeli), and to get the U.S Government to label Israel’s enemies as all terrorists as policy and propaganda (which resulted from a long term, major propaganda campaign—see Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2001 reprint of 1995 book Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat the International Terrorist Network as one of many, many examples).
Since 9/11, U.S. foreign policy has in effect opened up the opium trade in Afghanistan; illegally attacked Israel’s enemy Saddam Hussein and that nation (see “I don’t mean to say I told you so, but….” by Stephen Walt at http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/02/08/i_dont_m…o_but ).
And now we are destroying Syria (for Israel or please explain how Syria is so important to the American people that we should be so meddlesome in their affairs) as we are still on track to attack Iran with uncompromising demands, similar to our demands for unconditional surrender from Japan in WW2 that more or less guaranteeing Japan would not so we used two nuclear bombs with mass civilian casualties (as this standoff is equally for Israel); and the fact that such endeavors cost unimaginable amounts of American tax dollars and potentially could cost many American lives doesn’t seem to mean a thing to the Neo-Con-Artists—who basically came up with this hegemony. Nor did they care whether such events destroyed our overall economic viability.
But think of the mindless excuses from war hawks (including complicity by the mainstream media) to try to stop any transparency about Guantanamo prisoners—including how many were randomly rounded up in Afghanistan via blood money paid to War Lords—yes bribery money ultimately from tax payers via our government employees). If war is about winning hearts and minds then who wants to learn truth about how things really go down—better to keep things under the rug and away from the home front?
There are several documentaries on Guantanamo that you can find on the Internet. It is not some small, sideline issue—it is central to who and what we are—as opposed to who we claim we are.
Back in November of 2009 Attorney General Eric Holder announced a trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be held at a Federal Courthouse in New York City. The very next month an quixotic and bizarre underwear bomber story emerged and it more or less buried any discussion about the trial (that some in NYC did not want). That underwear bomber story scenario was not only a idiotic plot—it always seemed suspicious—as some conspiracy theorists have found plenty enough to question. Nevertheless the mainstream media played it like a real threat ad nauseum (never suggesting intelligence groups or types do engage “active measures” from time to time to affect outcomes—if for no other reason than to protect their own backsides).
Then shortly thereafter came the racism of Pamela Geller and Robert Spenser and their Stop the Islamization of America group complaining about the Ground Zero Mosque. After this carried on a few months there was little, if any, discussion for public or fair trials for prisoners of America’s gulag system—such ideas were effectively shunted—and equally there grew more imbecile excuses as to why the “mighty” U.S. could not close it down, culminating to hair-brained notions as such men were “too” dangerous to imprison on American soil (even as this high ratio prisoner society has routinely locked up more dangerous men).
Whereas, in previous years the mainstream had inundated the public consciousness with endless discussions about whether water boarding was really torture—while completely and deliberately ignoring an International Red Cross report (sent to all major U.S news outlets) that stated at least 44 people were known to have died from U.S. sponsored torture.
But there is simply no way President Obama can close this base on his own, or at least the prison part of it, without major and active U.S. citizen and world support. President Obama is surrounded by an entrenched cabinets of the Executive branch—they act power-hungry and have establishment the fact they have little respect for law. Equally a top-down and corrupted democratic party suffocates any possibility for clean and refreshing air. It was his choice of Ramn Israel Emanuel for Chief of Staff, in his first term, who apparently helped sideline the Guantanamo issue.
It is not enough for Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks to admonish the President, or correctly criticize him, for not having the stomach for a tough fight. There has to be a major coalition of the American people with him, willing to let Congress, and their staffs, know we Americans are tired of this status quo, and we are going to do something about it. (Currently you can’t even email some U.S. Senators a statement of any length—it prints as all run together—no spacing—take John McCain’s official email sight as example? Obviously he, nor his staff, doesn’t even read from the constituency—and it’s not just such level of arrogance—but also how mediocre are many of their minds.
Why has not the U.S. Senate called for an investigation of the likely assassination of Paul Wellstone, who was positioned to be re-elected for another term? You see it’s not really about being Jewish—but rather if you are crazy, right-wing NeoCon or not).
Americans must make a firm and powerful stand now—bigger than the Occupy Movement. Where is the Free Speech movement, where are the campus protests at Madison and Kent State Ohio? Think tanks were betting as long as there was no draft there wouldn’t be much protests. The D.C. Mall should be flooded this summer with people demanding justice for all people. This is not a party issue—it is All American issue.
It seems too many of our elected leaders are corrupted. How can they possibly stand in the way of the reasons President Obama announced for closing the Bush Legacy? Congress is acting as traitors to our very values and Constitutional liberties. They must be ousted from any decision-making capacity—if not put on trial for high crimes of treason.
We must force the military and intelligence quagmire to subordinate to the President. To think that mere men and women at the top of echelons were placing themselves into position to play some egotistical God—that is one who could arbitrarily make up the rules, could judge according to one’s own sanctimonious dictates, could willfully sanction war and murder, and could punish with some nebulous form of eternal torture as hell (with no possible right to justifiable Justice), is beyond comprehension and the pale—unless one realizes how the very meaning of corruption comports itself even within the ambiance of Washington D.C. We don’t need another Arab Spring but we do need our own form of American Summer.
We must reclaim our participatory role. The question is not whether the president has given up on common sense and idealism—but rather whether the American people have.
THIS IS THE TIME AND THIS IS THE ISSUE OF CONTENTION
OCCUPY! OCCUPY! OCCUPY!
Guantánamo hunger strike: Lawyers and human rights groups say it is just a matter of time before the detainees start to die
Emaciated and frail, more than 100 men lie on concrete floors of freezing, solitary cells in Guantánamo, silently starving themselves to death.
Stripped of all possessions, even basics such as a sleeping mat or soap, they lie listlessly as guards periodically bang on the steel doors and shout at them to move an arm or leg to prove they are still conscious.
The notorious detention centre is in crisis, suffering a rebellion of unprecedented scale, with most of the camp on lockdown and around two-thirds of the 166 detainees on hunger strike.
This week 40 American military nurses were drafted in to try to stem a mass suicide. The last Brit inside, Shaker Aamer, has said he is prepared to strike to his death.
The US administration does its best to keep prying eyes from the unfolding tragedy but the The Independent has obtained first-hand reports.
Twice a day, the 23 most weak are taken into a room. Their wrists, arms, stomach, legs and head are strapped to a chair and repeated attempts are made to force a tube down their noses into their stomachs. It is an ugly procedure as they gag and wretch, blood dripping from their nostrils. “They won’t let us live in peace and now they won’t let us die in peace,” said detainee, Fayiz Al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti held for 11 years without charge.
Four are so ill that they lie in shackles in the hospital wing and insiders predict it is only a matter of time before one perishes.
“It is possible that I may die in here,” said Mr Aamer, 44, through his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, recently. “I hope not, but if I do die, please tell my children that I loved them above all else, but that I had to stand up for the principle that they cannot just keep holding people without a trial, especially when they have been cleared for release,” said the father of four, who remains in Camp 5 despite being approved for release more than five years ago. “Sad to say, torture and abuse continue in Guantánamo Bay and the US is throwing away yet more of its dwindling moral authority,” added Mr Stafford Smith.
he protest, which began on 6 February, has now spread through Camp 6 and Camp 5 with an estimated 100 to 130 taking part. These are not the high value detainees kept in Camp 7, the handful charged with terror offences. The hunger strikers are those who have waited a decade or more without trial, including 86 cleared for release but remain trapped because of restrictions imposed by Congress.
As President Barack Obama pledged to press for Guantánamo’s closure this week, detainees described how it has gone back to the draconian regime of the Bush administration.
“Defence lawyers have tried to engage in constructive dialogue but we have been met with resistance and silence,” explained US Army Captain Jason Wright, a lawyer who described seeing his client Obaidullah, now a 115lb “bag of bones” , a few days ago as “extremely distressing”.
“I have pain in waist, dizziness. I cannot sleep well. I fell [sic] hopeless. I cannot exercise. My muscle become weaker in the last 50 days. I have thrown up five times,” wrote Obaidullah, a 32-year-old Afghan who has never been charged despite 11 years imprisonment.
“When I walked into the room he was demonstrably changed. He said, ‘They won’t treat us with dignity, they are treating us like dogs’. There is an urgency. It is clear that if this hunger strike continues there will be deaths. These men are going to die in this prison for nothing. It is an absolute outrage,” said Capt Wright.
“The hunger strike is a political protest. The fact that they are being treated in this manner is contrary to international law and un-American,” he added. The protest began on 6 February when, according to lawyers, the new administration decided to end “an era of permissiveness” and take a more punitive approach, in contravention with the Geneva Convention, which calls for preventative detention. Guards confiscated all “comfort items” but what inflamed inmates most was a search of their Korans, an act the administration denies.
Prisoners began writing SOS on the outside of their cells but the protest passed peacefully until 13 April when guards used rubber bullets to move inmates from communal cell blocks, where they had covered cameras, and some responded with “improvised weapons” such as broom handles.
First-hand reports this week reveal that most prisoners are now being held in solitary confinement in empty, windowless cells just 12ft by 8ft. Clean water is rationed, they say, and they have been stripped off all possessions.
They complain the air-conditioning has been turned up to an icy level, guards deliberately disturb prayer times and turn up throughout the night to take them for showers.
Describing sleeping on a concrete floor, using his shoes as a pillow, Moroccan Younous Chekkouri said via phone to his lawyers at the charity Reprieve: “Pain starts immediately when I’m on the floor. Pain in my neck, pain in my chest. Finally at night they gave us blankets. It was very cold. Water is now a privilege. They are treating us like animals,” he added. “I thought my torture had ended, but what is happening now is horrible.”
Amnesty was among several human rights organisations to describe the situation at the camp in Cuba as “at crisis point” this week while UN special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez condemned the continued detention as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”.
Omar Deghayes, 43, a British resident who was released without charge in 2007, recalled the effect of two shorter hunger strikes. Lying in a “fridge-like” cell, he said he could barely stand within four days and was consumed with hunger and pains.
“You start to hallucinate. When people talk to you, you can’t understand them. I started to hear voices. Then I started to vomit blood and puss. Your stomach contracts and when they force feed large quantities, you can’t control anything, you get diarrhoea on your trousers. They take you into the yard and hose you down.”
Most people cannot survive losing more than 40 per cent of their body weight. Once fat stores are depleted, the body begins to consume the muscles and vital organs for energy. A large number on the current hunger strike have lost around a third of their body weight. While some are keeping alive by using a vitamin and mineral drink, 23 are now being force-fed.
Lieutenant Colonel Barry Wingard, a lawyer who visited Mr Al-Kandari, this week, explained: “He said they strap you to a chair, tie up your wrists, your legs, your forehead and tightly around the waist. The tube makes his eyes water excessively and blood begins to trickle from the nose. Once the tube passes his throat the gag reflex kicks in. Warm liquid is poured into the body for 45 minutes to two hours. He feels like his body is going to convulse and often vomits.
“He is emaciated, down from 150lb to 100lb. He can’t walk. He finds is difficult to concentrate. He burps all the time as his stomach eats itself,” added the US Air Force officer, who described the treatment as “beyond hypocrisy”.
The Department of Defence said yesterday it used enteral feeding only when a detainee’s life was in danger. Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale added detainees had the highest standards of humane treatment.
“Detainees are not punished for hunger striking. However, we will not allow them to harm themselves,” he said, adding: “We will not allow them to commit suicide by starving themselves to death.”
Prisoners complain, however, that instead of leaving the tube in, they reinsert it twice a day. Dr Jeremy Lazarus, president of the American Medical Association, wrote to Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel recently to complain that force feeding was in violation of medical ethics.
Capt Wright, who travelled on the same plane as the nurses, said this week: “I can’t imagine they understood what they are being asked to do for their country. I don’t think they knew how horrific it would be. I hope some of them have the courage to say no.”
The detainees used self-made weapons to resist the transfer, thus forcing guards to fire, the US military said in a statement.
“Some detainees resisted with improvised weapons, and in response, four less-than-lethal rounds were fired,” Navy Captain Robert Durand said in a news release.
Officials say no guards or detainees have been seriously injured.
The reason for the move was explained because the detainees covered surveillance cameras, windows and partitions, preventing guards from observing them during a hunger strike that has been continuing for more than two months.
Round-the-clock monitoring is necessary to ensure security, order, and safety as detainees continued a prolonged hunger strike by refusing regular camp-provided meals,” Durand said.
Over the years Guantanamo detainees participated in various forms of protests, Durand explained to RT, adding that this new coordinated effort has created an “unsafe situation.”
“We made the decision to move detainees into individual cells based on the detainees’ continued efforts to block observation,” Durand stressed. “We recently determined that the risk to the health and security of certain detainees had reached an unacceptable level due to non-compliant behavior.”
Each detainee’s physical and mental health has been evaluated after the sweep.
“Detainees may continue to hunger strike as a form of protest,” Durand said, also adding that moving them into individual cells has allowed JTF to “ensure that detainees are not being coerced by other detainees to participate in the hunger strike.”
Although Guantanamo authorities claim the detainees were resisting with “improvised weapons,” Cindy Panuco, a lawyer representing one of them told RT that the truth is still to be determined as “there is no way they could have any sort of weapons.”
“That is interesting to find out they have makeshift weapons,” Panuco said. “Whenever we have gone down to visit our clients the only thing they are allowed are small ball-point inserts of a pen… almost like straws. That is pretty much all they are allowed. So I don’t see, especially given the invasive searches that were conducted in February, what kind of makeshift weapons the government is referring to.”
She believes that isolation is just another effort to undermine solidarity among the prison population.
“If they are together, if they are in a communal living space they can communicate and at least support each other and now that they are being isolated, it is another form of torment. To be taken away from your friends and comrades, who were there with you, makes it much more difficult to endure what is already a very difficult situation.”
The detention camp at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba holds 166 men, most of them captured more than a decade ago in different counter-terrorism operations.
Saturday’s early-morning sweep took place in Camp 6, a medium-security building where 80 to 100 detainees lived in cells that open into communal bays where they could eat, pray and watch television together. As part of the hunger strike, prisoners have been refusing to let food carts enter some of the bays.
Lawyers say most of Gitmo inmates are currently participating in the hunger strike. The US administration, however, is only acknowledging 43 cases, including 11 people who are being force-fed liquid nutrients through tubes inserted into their noses and down to their stomachs.
The hunger strike began in February in protest to the seizure of personal items from detainees’ cells. Some prisoners told their lawyers that their Qurans had been mistreated during the cell searches, which the US military denied.
Lawyers say the hunger strike is caused by the fact that most detainees are held there without being charged, overwhelmed by the depressing feeling they may never leave the prison.
Obama pledged to close the facility at the start of his first term, but has failed to do it so far.
Lawyers for the Guantanamo inmates estimate around ¾ of the 166 men still held there have joined the hunger strike, although the US military claims the number is lower.
In a legal declaration filed by his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, Mr Aamer also details how he has been subjected to sleep deprivation and violent procedures known as “Forcible Cell Extractions” while attempting to pray, in response to his hunger strike. These procedures are “excruciatingly painful,” particularly because of his long-term back injuries originally caused by mistreatment by the US in Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan.
Mr Aamer is protesting his ongoing detention, despite having long been cleared for release by the US authorities and never having been charged or tried with any crime during his eleven year ordeal. Mr Aamer continues to be held despite British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s public calls for his release.
Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith said: “The ongoing detention without charge or trial of these men is an affront to basic principles of justice. Shaker has a wife and four British kids – one of whom he’s never met – in London. The UK just accepts routine assurances from the US that all is well, when all is rotten in Guantanamo Bay. Does the UK really take the position that there is nothing more that can be done if a close ally is committing the on-going torture of Shaker Aamer?”
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / email@example.com
2. Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith’s affidavit detailing Shaker Aamer’s treatment can be on Reprieve’s website.
3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.
The lawyers said they were concerned about the critical health condition of the prisoners, who began the hunger strike on February 6.
They also said the majority of the 166 detainees held at the base stopped eating and many lost dangerous amounts of weight and were now being forced-fed through the nose.
The lawyers also noted that the lack of drinkable water had led to medical conditions affecting the kidneys, urinary system, and the stomach of the prisoners on strike.
The hunger strike began after the Gitmo staff reportedly seized their personal belongings of the inmates, including letters, photographs and copies of the Holy Qur’an in a sacrilegious manner during searches of their cells.
The prisoners are also protesting against their indefinite detention without charge or trial.
An attorney representing thirteen hunger striking prisoners said on Saturday that the inmates were prepared to die if their demands are not met.
“Suffering for these years, the torture, the isolation, the brutality by the guards have made it intolerable to the point where so many of the prisoners have decided that they will try until death,” said Gloria La Riva with Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition.
Reports show that only six of the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison or one in 28 are facing trial. Close to 90 of the prisoners, or more than one in two, have been cleared for release. The United States, however, continues to keep them locked up and has no imminent plans of letting them go.
US President Barack Obama had vowed to close the Guantanamo Bay prison as a main premise for his first term election. The facility, however, remains open five years later.
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.