Protests in Yemen: Anger against US Treatment of Fasting Gitmo Prisoners Goes Global

April 3rd, 2013 - by admin

Jacob Chamberlain / CommonDreams & The World Can’t Wait & Kevin Gozstola / FireDogLake – 2013-04-03 00:41:15

Where is the world to save us from torture?
Where is the world to save us from the fire and the darkness?
Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?

— from “Hunger Strike Poem” by Adnan Latif, 37 — found dead in Guantanamo on Sept. 12, 2012

Protests in Yemen Demand Freedom for Those ‘Indefinitely Detained’ at Guantanamo Prison
Lawyers for hunger-striking detainees warned that deteriorating conditions threaten death

Jacob Chamberlain / CommonDreams

(April 1, 2013) — Protesters surrounded the US Embassy in Yemen on Monday demanding the release of 90 ‘indefinitely detained’ Yemeni prisoners who remain locked up in Guantanamo Bay despite having never been charged with a crime.

As the Associated Press reports, roughly 250 activists and relatives of the detainees stood outside of the embassy holding images of the prisoners and signs calling for their release. Nearby state security forces stood ready in full riot gear.

Yemenis make up the largest group of the 166 detainees still held at the US prison in Cuba.

From AP:
Yemen’s government has requested its nationals in Guantanamo Bay prison be sent [home], and has suggested rehabilitating the detainees if they disavow militancy — a policy used with dozens of Saudis who were repatriated to their country.

Washington argues that Yemen, where al-Qaida is active, is too unstable to prevent former prisoners from engaging in militant activities.

President Barack Obama had pledged to shutter the prison at Guantanamo soon after taking office but Congress opposed it, passing a law that prohibits the government from transferring Guantanamo prisoners to US soil and requiring security guarantees before they can be sent elsewhere in the world.

Prisoners within the US offshore prison have been engaged in a hunger strike for several weeks in protest of their harsh conditions and their legal status that prevents them from being released even though they are charged with no wrong doing.

While the US military now admits 37 prisoners are engaged in hunger strike, lawyers representing the detainees maintain that the actual number is well over 100.

And as The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald recently pointed out, the conditions under which the men are held can only be fully understood by recognizing the flimsy legal arguments that keep them there.

Not only have most of those detainees never been charged, but dozens of them have been cleared for release by the US government, yet continue to languish in cages with no release possible. That inexcusable injustice is due in part to a moratorium imposed by Obama – that’s imposed by Obama, not Congress – on the release of all Yemeni detainees, who compose the bulk of the remaining detainees (that includes Adnan Latif, who died at the age of 32 in the camp last November after having attempted suicide on multiple occasions, after having had his judicial victory ordering his release overturned on appeal).

As former Gitmo guard Brandon Neely pointed out last September, after the death of a former hunger striker, more detainees have died at the camp (ten) than have been convicted of wrongdoing in what he called its “kangaroo courts”, meaning its military commissions (six).

Several of the prisoner’s attorneys filed an emergency motion in a federal court last week, saying guards are refusing to provide drinking water to the hunger strikers and have kept camp temperatures “extremely frigid” in an effort to “to thwart the protest.”

Many of the detainees could be nearing death, their lawyers warned.

In an interview with Russia Today on Monday, Cindy Panuco, a lawyer who represents one of the prisoners, stated:

I’ve seen it with my own eyes. He’s supposed to have another meeting with his military council the following week and told me to let them know that he may not be in a state to meet with them. By the time they come see him, he may be in isolation or in medical watch or he may be being force fed by the time they come to meet with him, and he wanted me to take that message to them. […]

I know from my meetings with my client last week and his conversations with other detainees and prisoners who are also on strike, they are prepared to stand up for the principles of not having their religious practices respected, not having the Koran desecrated, and now it’s become an even bigger message that they want to deliver, which is that they have been now detained since 2002, many of them. My client for 11 years now, since 2002.

Many of the prisoners have been cleared for release and have been declared innocent, but the US refuses to transfer or release them.

Panuco continues:

The Obama administration has closed the office it had set up in the State Department to study the closure of Guantanamo and carry that out and it hasn’t happened. So this has gone beyond the desecration of the Koran and the disrespect of their religion. And they’re now also protesting the worsening conditions as these prison officials are essentially retaliating against them and trying to end the strike by making conditions harsher. And the detainees have been enduring all of this and plan to continue to do so.

Obama’s Gulag
The World Can’t Wait

SAN FRANCISCO BAY CHAPTER (March 24, 2013) — Murder comes in many guises. It can be perpetrated by one individual or many, spontaneously or premeditated, as isolated incident or institutionalized policy. Sanctioned by the state it takes on a particularly ugly persona in that it relies on at least the appearance of public authorization.

Capital punishment represents the most common example of the latter. The veneer of legality is thin, and rejected by most civilized society. But the politically motivated power to assassinate “undesirables” that the Obama administration embraces lacks any such veneer, let alone legal justification.

The presumptive policy of preemptive punishment, employed in drone strikes on civilians and the indefinite detention of subjects without charge, is perhaps the most dangerous threat to humanity we currently face; its accommodation by legislators and some members of the public is unprecedented and requires mass repudiation.

The list of deaths by presidential decree, i.e. those on Obama’s Kill List, is about to include new victims — murdered by neglect — if we let it happen. The President’s deliberate indifference to the plight of Guantanamo hunger strikers (including his shuttering of the office working to close the prison) represents a gross miscarriage of oversight. And a shocking example of inhumanity.

When leaders fail to halt atrocities, in this case so readily preventable, the responsibility falls on us to step up to the task at hand. There is no reason, or possible excuse, for the Guantanamo hunger strikers to die.

Hunger Strikers, New Prison for ‘Special’ Detainees & No More Commercial Flights to Guantanamo
Kevin Gozstola / FireDogLake

(March 22, 2013) — Guantanamo prisoners engaged in a hunger strike that has been ongoing for over a month are losing considerable weight, according to attorneys for the prisoners. The Pentagon also continues to report a number of hunger strikers that does not match reports from attorneys, who have said there are many more prisoners on strike.

The Associated Press reports:
Attorney Carlos Warner met with a prisoner from Kuwait this week and says the man appears to have lost 25 pounds. He said 35-year-old Faez al-Kandari was pale and could barely stand. Several other attorneys have reported similar accounts after meeting or speaking with prisoners in recent days.

A prison spokesman says military doctors are closely monitoring the men’s weight and health. Navy Capt. Robert Durand also says the strike has grown to 26 prisoners, up by five since Monday.

There are around 130 men housed in Camp Six where the hunger strike is taking place. Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on March 14, “We understand that most of the men in Camp 6, which holds the largest number of detainees at Guantánamo, have been on hunger strike since February 6.” By treating the term “hunger strike” as a term of art, the Pentagon is deliberately misrepresenting the number of prisoners on strike.

Marine General John Kelly, who heads US Southern Command, told the House Armed Services Committee prisoners on strike “had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated when the president backed off.” They apparently learned “President Obama did not restate the goal of closing Guantanamo in his second inaugural address or in this year’s State of the Union speech.” CBS News also suggests the prisoners have been aware the State Department closed an office that was in charge of resettling prisoners. This has “caused them to become frustrated, and they want to turn the heat up.”

These statement completely omit the fact that lawyers for the prisoners have been reporting their clients have been abused by the new guard force.

From the CCR:
We understand that the hunger strike was precipitated by widespread searches of detainees Qurans—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. Indeed, the conditions being reported by the men appear to be a significant departure from the way in which the prison has operated over the past several years.

According to Guantanamo attorney Candace Gorman, they have put forth two simple demands weeks ago:
1. The right to voluntarily surrender the Quran under these conditions- the men would rather surrender their Quran’s than to be a party to the desecration by keeping it. (That will end the strike immediately);

2. Provide the Quran on an Ereader (this would ensure there are no notes being passed in the Quran and will allow the men to have the Quran without fear of it being desecrated).

Now, a number of these hunger strikers are being force-fed. The military publicly acknowledges eight are being force-fed “a nutritional supplement through a hose snaked into their nose while they are restrained in a chair.” But, given the fact that they aren’t representing the actual number of prisoners on strike, there is reason to be skeptical that only eight are being force-fed.

Further increasing tension is the fact that commercial flights that attorneys have taken regularly from south Florida have now been canceled. As Carol Rosenberg reported, the Pentagon has decided to invoke a regulation that has typically been waived.

A CNN report shows lawyers think the canceled flights are part of controlling the flow of information about the hunger strike:
David Remes, a Washington-based lawyer who represents 15 clients held at the detention facility, said authorities “are canceling these flights because they want to keep the public in the dark about the mayhem in the prison.”

“For the past several months, bad news has been streaming out of the camps,” Remes said. “The authorities are taking one hit after another for the way they’re running the camps, so they’re doing what comes naturally – choking off the flow of information.”

Ramzi Kassem told Rosenberg, “Of late, the Defense Department has been trying to restrict lawyers’ access to imprisoned clients who do not have pending cases, it has been violating the attorney-client privilege, and now it is eliminating the only non-military route to Guantánamo.” He added, “Having no other options doesn’t just harm the prisoners and their lawyers. It also hurts workers, service members and their loved ones.”

Finally, as this has all been playing out, it was reported that US Southern Command would like to build a new prison for “special” detainees:
The United States Southern Command has requested $49 million to build a new prison building at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for “special” detainees on top of other renovations it says are necessary since Congress has decided to keep it open indefinitely. That brings the potential taxpayer bill for upgrading the deteriorating facilities to an estimated $195.7 million, the military said on Thursday.

That overall price tag is significantly higher than the estimate of $150 million to $170 million that General John F. Kelly, the Southcom commander, gave in Congressional testimony on Wednesday. The special detainee facility was not included on the list of requested construction projects released by Southcom on Wednesday when reporters asked for details. [emphasis added] has reactions from human rights groups, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First, condemning plans to build a new prison. Co-founder of Code Pink, Medea Benjamin, reacted, “This is just absurd…. Here’s the president — who campaigned on closing Guantánamo Bay — extending and renovating it. What he needs to do is renovate his current policy and release the people who’ve been cleared for release, shut down the prison, and bring the rest of the prisoners to the United States for trial.”

More and more prisoners do realize that the only way out of Guantanamo is death because Obama is not closing the prison. Prisoners, who have been there for a decade or more, are well aware that, when they have won improvements to conditions at the prison or forced the guards to show them a minimal level of respect, it has been a result of putting their bodies on the line.

Some of these prisoners could be imprisoned for the rest of their lives. They may never return home or see their families again. The least guards could do is not violate prisoners’ Qurans.

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