By Paul Harris, The Guardian
Thursday, April 11, 2013 12:40 EDT
Lawyers describe detainees’ dramatic weight loss as guards attempt to end the protest through force-feeding and isolation
Lawyers representing hunger-striking detainees at America’s controversial Guantánamo Bay prison have warned they fear some of the protesters could soon die in the ongoing protest.
The news comes as fresh details emerge about conditions at the camp from lawyers visiting clients, letters being written by inmates and phone calls from inside the prison.
They describe dramatic weight loss among many of the hunger strikers, force-feeding, putting protesters in isolation and at least one suicide attempt – though that has been denied by military authorities.
In a letter written by Djamel Ameziane – an Algerian prisoner who has been cleared for release after 11 years of being detained without trial – guards were accused of pressuring prisoners to break the strike. “They are trying to deprive us of everything they can,” he wrote in the letter, extracts of which were seen by the Guardian. Ameziane added that inmates were being disturbed during prayers and that the temperature in cell blocks had been lowered to make inmates less comfortable.
Ameziane said that prisoners were being moved from the communal Camp 6 to the more isolated Camp 5 as a form of punishment for striking. “People who lose consciousness are taken to Camp 5 and some of them are put in isolation. Because of that, two days ago, one prisoner hung himself in his cell. They took him to hospital. I have not heard any news about him since,” Ameziane wrote.
Earlier this week, a spokesman for the US military at the base, Capt Robert Durand, issued a statement in which he insisted there had been “no recent suicide attempts” at the prison. The military also denies it has mistreated any of the prisoners.
But lawyers and human rights advocates are painting a very different picture on what is going on at the prison than military officials. Lawyer Pardiss Kebriaei, who visited the isolated military base on Cuba last week, said that she met two of her clients who were both refusing food. One of them, Yemeni Ghaleb Al-Bihani, told her he had lost 40 pounds since joining the hunger strike which now involves a large majority of the base’s prisoners and began some two months ago. Kebriaei said that Al-Bihani suffered from diabetes and was already on a “high risk” list of detainees who had previously diagnosed serious health problems.
“He seemed very weak,” Kebriaei said. She added that another detainee she met, a second Yemeni called Sabry Mohammed, had lost some 30 pounds. Mohammed is one of the 86 detainees at the base who have been officially cleared for release. Kebriaie said that she was concerned that the length of the hunger strike, coupled with pre-existing health problems like the diabetes suffered by Al-Bihani, could result in deaths soon. “Death can occur. That is an objective medical fact,” she said. “There are people in critical condition. Death is a distinct possibility.”
As Guantánamo Hunger Strike Continues, Activists Rally Nationwide for “Day of Action to Close Guantánamo & End Indefinite Detention”
Protests in D.C., NYC, Chicago , San Francisco , and Over 26 Cities Pressure Obama to Close the Prison
April 11, 2013, New York and Washington, D.C. – As the hunger strike of men detained at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo began its third month, activists organized emergency rallies in over 26 cities and 19 states across the United States for a national “Day of Action to Close Guantánamo & End Indefinite Detention.” From New York City to San Francisco, Durham to Los Angeles, Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, World Can’t Wait, and other groups demanded the closure of Guantánamo. The actions came on a day that 25 prominent human rights and civil liberties organizations sent a joint letter to President Obama urging the closure of Guantánamo.
Said organizers of the protests, “The vast majority of the 166 men still trapped at Guantánamo have been held for more than 11 years without charge or fair trial. The Obama administration must take swift measures to humanely address the immediate causes of the hunger strike and fulfill its promise to close the Guantánamo detention facility.”
The coalition urged President Obama to fulfill his promise to close Guantánamo and called on him to:
· Direct Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to issue the certifications or national security waivers required by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2013) to effect transfers from Guantánamo;
· Appoint an individual within the White House to lead the effort to close Guantánamo;
· Make the case to Congress and the American people for removing the remaining transfer restrictions and closing the detention facility; and
· Ensure that all detained men are either charged and fairly tried in criminal court, or released to countries that will respect their human rights.
Demonstrations took place across the country, all accompanied by activists dressed in orange jumpsuits to represent the men detained at Guantánamo. In Washington , D.C. , activists and speakers, including Pratap Chaterjee from the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA, rallied in front of the White House. In New York , activists rallied in Times Square where speakers included Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who just returned from visiting clients detained at Guantánamo, and Rachel Ward, Director of US Programs for Amnesty International USA.
by Matt Bewig
April 8, 2013
Despite his 2008 campaign promise to close the U.S. government’s detention center for suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, President Barack Obama’s administration last week announced plans to spend $195 million on renovation and new construction there—strongly implying that the nation’s taxpayers can expect to pay to imprison the center’s 166 inmates, 86 of whom have been cleared of wrongdoing, for many years to come.
Initially, on Wednesday, General John F. Kelly, Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, requested $150 million to $170 million for renovations to the prison complex, including $99 million for two barracks facilities, $12 million for a new mess hall, and millions more for consolidating scattered legal, medical and communications facilities. He also made a cryptic reference to “other projects that I couldn’t talk about here in the open but do have to do with replacing one of the camp facilities where some of the detainees are—special detainees are housed.”
Pressed for details, Lt. Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a Southcom spokesman, admitted that Southcom also needed an additional $49 million to build a new building at Guantánamo for so-called “high-value” detainees like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. That brings the total amount requested up to about $195.7 million, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
Published time: April 06, 2013 16:55
Forty-one prisoners have now been classified as hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay, though none of them are in hospital, the prison’s spokesman said. Inmates maintain that the actual number is over three times higher.
Navy Capt. Robert Durand said that the slight increase, up one from Thursday, takes into account all prisoners who have missed at least nine consecutive meals.
He added that two prisoners who had been hospitalized for dehydration have now been released, and eleven more are being force-fed to keep them from losing enough weight to endanger their lives.
The US military has continued to engage in the controversial process of forced feeding – an act the UN has compared to torture- despite opposition from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) monitoring the prisoners’ condition.
Despite the officially recognized figure, prisoners and their attorneys have long maintained that 130 out of the camps 166 detainees have already joined the hunger strike.
The hunger strike, which reportedly began around February 6, “was precipitated by widespread searches of detainees’ Qur’ans – perceived as religious desecration – as well as searches and confiscation of other personal items, including family letters and photographs, and legal mail, seemingly without provocation or cause,” Fifty-one attorneys wrote to defense secretary Chuck Hagel on March 14.
US authorities have summarily denied the prisoners’ claims.
On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Washington to close Guantanamo Bay in an uncharacteristically strong statement from the UN.
Pillay, who characterized the prison hunger strike as a “desperate” but “scarcely surprising” act, expressed her “deep disappointment” that the US government had not followed through on its four-year-old pledge to shut down Guantanamo Bay.
“We must be clear about this, the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold,” Pillay said in a statement.
She further condemned “the continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees,” saying it “amounts to arbitrary detention,” a violation of international law.
Of the 166 detainees, who hail from 23 different countries, only nine have been formally charged or convicted of a criminal offense.
by Noel Brinkerhoff & David Wallechinsky
April 1, 2013
Mohammed Sulaymon Barre of Somaliland, who was held at Guantánamo until December 2009, filed a motion to compel the government to disclose the information officials had collected on him.
The government responded by saying it could not meet the request because of the time it would take to sift through the file and redact portions of it.
U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth rejected the administration’s argument, and said he was “troubled by the government’s apparent lack of urgency in issuing public versions of classified materials filed in Guantánamo proceedings.”
Lamberth added: “The government’s arguments are unavailing and largely boil down to this: ‘Declassification is complicated and time consuming and we already have a lot of work—please don’t pile on.’”
Barre (a.k.a. Mohamed Saleban Bare) was arrested and detained in November 2001 while living as a UN-designated refugee in Karachi, Pakistan. He became a suspect in the eyes of the U.S. because of his alleged ties to Al-Wafa, a Saudi foundation accused of terrorist activities, and because of his job at Dahabshiil Company, a Somali-based financial institution that allegedly sent money to and from customers in Pakistan. Sulaymon maintained that he had done nothing wrong and was picked up because U.S. forces were paying bounties for the capture of alleged enemies.
His detention included being held at military bases in Kandahar and Bagram in Afghanistan, before being transferred to Guantanamo, where he claims he was tortured. Upon his release, he told Agence France-Presse, “Guantánamo Bay is like hell on Earth….In the cold they let you sleep without a blanket. Some of the inmates face harsher torture, including with electricity and beating….Some of my colleagues in the prison lost their sight, some lost their limbs and others ended up mentally disturbed. I’m OK compared to them.”
March 29, 2013
A Yemeni prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay prison, who has been participating in a hunger strike which has been ongoing for weeks, has requested “emergency humanitarian relief” from a federal district court he says he and other prisoners are being denied access to potable water.
The motion for emergency relief filed on March 26 by his attorneys asserts, “For the past three days, prison authorities have denied” Musa’ab Omar al Madhwani – “and others within his and one other cell block – access to potable water. When Musa’ab and his fellow prisoners requested drinking water, the guards told them to drink from the faucets.”
It adds, “The tap water at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station is not potable and residents of the Naval Station drink only bottled water.” And, also, “The lack of potable water has already caused some prisoners kidney, urinary and stomach problems.”
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