Guantánamo Bay: The Hunger Strikes – video animation

This is posted on The Guardian: In March 2013, reports of a hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay, the US detention camp in Cuba, began to surface. Details were sketchy and were contradicted by statements from the US military. Now, using testimony from five detainees, this animated film reveals the daily brutality of life inside Guantánamo. Today there are 17 prisoners still on hunger strike, 16 of whom are being force-fed. Two are in hospital

Warning: contains scenes some viewers might find disturbing

شاهد هذا الفيلم مع ترجمة بالعربية

Prison-Wide Hunger Strike Still Rages at Guantánamo

From: Andy Worthington
30.3.13

Three weeks ago, I wrote an article entitled, “A Huge Hunger Strike at Guantánamo,” in which I reported the stories emerging from Guantánamo of a prison-wide hunger strike, the most severe since George W. Bush was President, and the gulf between what was being reported by the prisoners, via their attorneys, and what the US authorities were saying.

At the time, the authorities stated that just six of the 166 men still held were classified as hunger strikers, and that five were being force-fed, through tubes inserted up their nose and into their stomachs — these men all being long-term hunger strikers, at least one of whom has, alarmingly, been on a hunger strike since 2005.

It was, to be frank, inconceivable that the hunger strike had been invented by the prisoners, when attorneys reported visiting their clients, and seeing that they had lost 20 to 30 pounds in weight. However, it took until March 15, as Carol Rosenberg reported for the Miami Herald, for “the first admission of a protest” to be made by the authorities. Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for the prison authorities, denied “a widespread phenomenon, as alleged,” but conceded, “for the first time after weeks of denial,” as Rosenberg put it, “that the number had surged to 14 from the five or six detainees who had for years been considered hunger strikers among the 166 captives at Guantánamo.”

Since the blanket denials were dropped, and the media began to take an interest in the story, focusing the world’s attention on the problems at Guantánamo to a greater degree than has happened for many years, the authorities have steadily acknowledged that more and more prisoners are on a hunger strike. Last week, the numbers went up to 21, and ended the week at 26, and this week the latest tally is 31 [Note: Since writing this article, the figure has been revised up to 37]. That, however, is still a far cry from the claims made by the prisoners and their attorneys, who state that the majority of the prisoners in Camp 6 — 130 men in total — are involved in the hunger strike.

Whatever the exact figures, transparency and honesty are not attributes that the US government can claim when it comes to Guantánamo, and it is difficult to see why the authorities should be trusted. As well as disputing the figures, the government also claims that the main reason given for the hunger strike is a lie. 51 attorneys wrote to defense secretary Chuck Hagel on March 14, explaining that the hunger strike “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. We also understand that these searches occurred against a background of increasingly regressive practices at the prison taking place in recent months, which our clients have described as a return to an older regime at Guantánamo that was widely identified with the mistreatment of detainees.”

Chuck Hagel has not responded, but the authorities deny the prisoners’ claims.

However, there is another reason for the hunger strike that is rather harder to deny; namely, that the prisoners despair of ever being released, over four years after President Obama promised to close Guantánamo, and despite 86 of the remaining prisoners being cleared for release by an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force that the President established in 2009.

The President himself is to blame for imposing a blanket ban on the release of two-thirds of these men — all Yemenis — after a Nigerian man,Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried and failed to blow up a plane bound for the US on Christmas Day 2009. Abdulmutallab was recruited in Yemen, but the President’s ban imposes an unjustifiable life sentence on the Yemenis on the basis of their nationality alone.

Also to blame is Congress, where lawmakers introduced legislation designed to block the release of prisoners, including an obligation on the defense secretary to certify that any released prisoner would not subsequently be able to engage in anti-American activities — a certification that seems to me to be impossible to make. As a result, only four prisoners have been released in the last two years, and during that same time period three prisoners have died. The prisoners also understand these statistics: at present there is a 43 percent probability that if they manage to leave Guantánamo, which is unlikely, it will be in a coffin.

The authorities have not spoken officially about the prisoners’ despair, although in Congressional testimony last week, Gen. John F. Kelly, the naval commander at Guantánamo, acknowledged the reality of it when he said, “They [the prisoners] had great optimism that Guantánamo would be closed. They were devastated, apparently … when the president backed off — at least their perception — of closing the facility. He said nothing about it in his inauguration speech. He said nothing about it in his State of the Union speech. He has said nothing about it. He’s not — he’s not restaffing the office that … looks at closing the facility.”

What happens next is unclear. People will die unless action is taken to bring the hunger strike to an end, and President Obama needs to stir himself from his torpor and act to bring to an end the disgraceful situation whereby prisoners cleared for release by the government may be imprisoned for the rest of their lives because it has proven to be politically inconvenient to release them. One of these men, Adnan Latif, a Yemeni, died at Guantánamo last September, and there are now understandable fears that others will die.

Instead of responding, however, President Obama is doing nothing — or rather, just watching as officials establish that nearly $200 million is required to renovate the facilities at Guantánamo, including, as Gen. Kelly let slip, $50 million to replace Camp 7, the secretive camp where the 16 “high-value detainees,” including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are held. The President, I’m sorry to note, escaped the scrutiny he deserved when these figures emerged, because the cost, of course, includes the figures for the cleared prisoners. It was established in November 2011 that it costs $72 million a year to hold the cleared prisoners; and to that can be added half of the $150 million that is not being spent on the “high-value detainees.” With the annual cost, that is $150 million that will be spent this year on holding men that the US government decided three to four years ago it no longer wished to hold.

When asked about the reasons for the hunger strike, Capt. Durand stated that

Read the rest here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2013/03/30/prison-wide-hunger-strike-still-rages-at-guantanamo/

Christmas at Guantánamo

By: Andy Worthington, taken from his weblog

25.12.10

Ten days ago, when I traveled to Sheffield with my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, for a screening of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (which I co-directed with Polly Nash), I asked Omar what Guantánamo was like at Christmas, as I knew that he had spent five Christmases imprisoned in Guantánamo, and I thought it might make an interesting article for Christmas this year.

In fact, there was little to report. The authorities, it seems, made some effort on this great Christian holy day, but the prisoners, for the most part, were in no mood to accept one day of charity when the rest of the year was so devoid of Christian charity.
Instead, I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind readers who may be searching the Internet because they need a break from eating and drinking, or because they want to get away from their families for a while, or because the TV is so relentlessly pointless, or because they don’t celebrate Christmas, about some of the 174 men still held in Guantánamo, for whom concern is particularly appropriate right now, as, between them, the Obama administration and Congress seem to have ensured that the majority of them will be spending many more Christmases at Guantánamo.

My first thoughts were for prisoners I have written about recently — in particular, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, cleared for release in 2007 but still held; Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian, also cleared for release in 2007, who is terrified of being forcibly repatriated; and Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti who lost his habeas petition in September, but who appears, by any objective measure, to be an innocent man.
I encourage readers to visit this page for information about how to write to the British and American governments about Shaker Aamer, to visit this page for information about the latest attempts by Ahmed Belbacha’s lawyers to prevent his involuntary repatriation, and to visit this page to sign a petition asking Attorney General Eric Holder to return Fayiz al-Kandari to Kuwait (or just sign the petition here).
However, in thinking about all the prisoners still held, I was also reminded of one particular prisoner whose story I have not written about for many months, but who is in desperate need of help. That man is Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a 34-year old Yemeni prisoner who won his habeas corpus petition on July 21 this year, but is still held, even though it became apparent during his hearing that the Bush administration had cleared him for release from Guantánamo in 2007, and even though one of his lawyers, David Remes, explained after the ruling, “This is a mentally disturbed man who has said from the beginning that he went to Afghanistan seeking medical care because he was too poor to pay for it. Finally, a court has recognized that he’s been telling the truth, and ordered his release.”

Read the rest here.

On Human Rights Day, Public Figures Call for Worldwide Ban on Solitary Confinement and Prisoner Isolation

10.12.10
From: Andy Worthington
See also: Stop Isolation

Public figures, intellectuals, former prisoners and human rights activists have today, Friday 10 December, issued a statement calling for an international ban on long-term solitary confinement and prisoner isolation.

Supporters of the statement include US academic Noam Chomsky, US author and poet Alice Walker, former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, former prisoners Paddy Hill and Gerry Conlon (wrongly convicted over IRA bombings in England), former Beirut hostage Terry Waite, lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, barrister Michael Mansfield QC, Emeritus Professor David Brown (University of New South Wales, Australia) and Richard Haley (Chair, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities).

10 December is International Human Rights Day and marks the anniversary of the proclamation in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The “Stop Isolation” statement says that enforced long-term isolation in all circumstances breaches Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The statement has been published on a new website, “Stop Isolation,” which aims to encourage international collaboration to put an end to long-term solitary confinement.

Read the rest here.

End Prisoner Isolation — The Full Statement

Jails around the world hold prisoners who have endured years of solitary confinement or other forms of isolation. The enforced long-term isolation of any person is a cruel and inhuman violation of their inalienable rights and needs as members of the human family. The long-term isolation of prisoners has to stop.

Scientific evidence shows that prisoners held in long-term isolation commonly suffer severe damage to their mental health. It should be self-evident that whether a prisoner manifests such damage or not, the suffering that he or she endures is torturous, cruel and inhuman. Few of us can properly imagine what such a prisoner goes through.

In the USA hundreds of prisoners are held in extreme isolation in the “supermax” prison known as Administrative Maximum, Florence, Colorado (“ADX Florence”), a federal prison. Tens of thousands more prisoners are held in extreme isolation in “supermax” State prisons and in special units at other facilities within the Federal and State prison systems. Many of these prisoners have been held in isolation for years; some have suffered isolation for decades.

Isolation in US prisons commonly involves solitary confinement with minimal human contact of any kind, even with prison staff. Prisoners are typically held in their cells for 23 hours a day. Exercise is typically taken in an isolated space outside the cell. Isolation can also mean the confinement of two prisoners in a single isolation cell — a situation potentially even worse than solitary confinement.

Prisoners in other jurisdictions around the world also suffer prolonged solitary confinement. A report published in October 2008 by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture named China, Denmark, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Paraguay as well as the United States as giving cause for concern. In the same year, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern over prolonged isolation in “supermax” facilities in Australia. In 2009 the Committee expressed concern over the use of solitary confinement in Israeli prisons.

We believe that prolonged, enforced isolation is unjustifiable in any circumstances. It is unjustifiable whether it is imposed as a punishment, or to coerce information or a change of behaviour from the prisoner, or for any other purpose. It is unjustifiable whether it is imposed before trial or after conviction. It is unjustifiable whether of not it is imposed through legal process.

Long-term isolation is the antithesis of norms that have come to be accepted in much of Europe and in many other parts of the world. The drift away from these norms must be resisted.

Where, exceptionally, a prisoner cannot safely or beneficially be afforded the kinds of social interaction normal within humanely-run prisons, exceptional and effective steps must be taken to provide the prisoner with human contact that is clearly adequate in the interests of his or her human and psychological well-being.

We believe that enforced long-term isolation in all circumstances breaches Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

We call upon the countries of the world to enact legislation that prohibits long-term prisoner isolation, and prohibits the transfer of prisoners to countries where they would be at risk of such treatment.

Dungeons should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

Supporters (all in a personal capacity)

Clive Stafford-Smith (lawyer and director of Reprieve)
Frances Webber (barrister, London, UK)
Moazzam Begg (former Guantánamo prisoner, director of Cagepriosners, UK)
Noam Chomsky (Institute Professor & Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, MIT, USA) Alice Walker (author, USA)
Lord Anthony Gifford QC (barrister, Jamaica and UK)
Michael Mansfield QC (barrister, UK)
Daniel Machover (Chair of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights)
Frank Barat (Coordinator Russell Tribunal on Palestine)
Bill Bowring (barrister and Professor of Law, Birkbeck, University of London, UK)
Aamer Anwar (criminal defence lawyer, Glasgow, UK)
David Brown (Emeritus Professor, University of NSW, Sydney Australia)
Terry Waite CBE (former Beirut hostage, UK)
Omar Deghayes (former Guantánamo prisoner, UK)
Paddy Hill (Birmingham Six, UK)
Gerry Conlon (Guildford Four, UK)
Ronnie Kasrils (writer, activist and former government minister, South Africa)
Mairead Corrigan Maguire (Nobel Peace laureate 1976, Northern Ireland)
Cynthia McKinney, former member of the US Congress and 2008 presidential candidate, Green Party, USA)
John McManus (Miscarriages of Justice Organisation Scotland, UK)
Richard Haley (Scotand Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Julia Davidson (Scotand Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Desmond Fernandes (Genocide and prisoner isolation scholar, London, UK )
Estella Schmid (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Saleh Mamon (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Les Levidow (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Maryam Hassan (Justice for Aafia Coalition)
Pushkar Raj (General Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, India)
Sharon Shalev (Solitary Confinement.org)
Jeffrey Ian Ross (Associate Professor, University of Baltimore, USA)
Hans Toch (Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University at Albany, State University of NY, USA)
Andy Worthington (journalist and author, UK)
Tam Dean Burn (cultural worker, Scotland, UK)
R. Hugh Drummond (Edinburgh, UK)
Adnan Siddiqui (a director of Cageprisoners, UK)
Arzu Merali (Islamic Human Rights Commission, UK)