Hunger strike at Guantanamo: US perpetrates human rights atrocity

Today I will set aside the blog post I planned on issues in marketing, media, and childhood, because I cannot remain silent about the human rights crisis the United States is allowing to happen at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

A hunger strike at the United States’ military penal complex at Guantánamo Bay is now in its third month and has grown to over 100 and possibly 130 of the 166 men still held there. They are protesting terrible conditions, poor treatment, and indefinite confinement.

Most are being held without charges. Many were cleared for release years ago.

Meanwhile, President Obama and Congress dither and play political games and fail to act.

A first person account from the New York Times:

ONE man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.
I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

Another from Guantanamo journalist Andy Worthington:

I have just received a brief message from a credible source inside Guantánamo, about the situation in the prison today, which I wanted to make available because it exposes how four prisoners are close to death, as a result of the prison-wide hunger strike that is on its 80th day, and yet the guard force are behaving with brutality and indifference.

The source stated that it “looks like GTMO is going backward,” with the guards “putting people in isolation and all day long making lots of noise by speaking loudly, running on the metal stairs and leaving their two-way radios on all day and night. People cannot sleep.”

The source added, “There are at least four people that are at the very edge and one named Khiali Gul from Afghanistan is in a bad shape and cannot move and cannot talk or eat or drink. When other detainees tell the guards about him, they say, ‘When he is completely unconscious, then we will take him.’ The chances are that he will die.”

The source also explained that he has been trying to get an Afghan lawyer “to notify his family to at least call him and they might have a chance to talk to him for the last time.”

Andy Worthington writes: “…Barack Obama is the President, and the Commander-in-Chief, and he has failed to adequately challenge his critics, or to stand up for the principles which so many of his supporters at the time of his election had been led to believe would result in a thorough repudiation of the Bush administration’s hideous novelties in its brutal and ill-conceived “war on terror.” Instead, we have the return of kangaroo courts and indefinite detention without charge or trial, as we had under Bush, no release for prisoners cleared for release by Obama’s own Guantánamo Review Task Force, no prosecutions for torturers, and no end in sight to the endless war that the Bush administration started, and which Obama has ramped up with drone strikes and assassinations.”

Instead of working to resolve the issues that have led to the protest, the United States finds ways to defend the forced feeding.

From the New York Times editorial Board April 14:

[Guantanamo] became the embodiment of [Bush’s] dangerous expansion of executive power and the lawless detentions, secret prisons and torture that went along with them. It is now also a reminder of Mr. Obama’s failure to close the prison as he promised when he took office, and of the malicious interference by Congress in any effort to justly try and punish the Guantánamo inmates.

There are still 166 men there — virtually all of them held without charges, some for more than a decade. More than half have been cleared for release but are still imprisoned because of a law that requires individual Pentagon waivers. The administration eliminated the State Department post charged with working with other countries to transfer the prisoners so those waivers might be issued…

Just as hunger strikes at the infamous Maze Prison in Northern Ireland indelibly stained Britain’s human rights record, so Guantánamo stains America’s.

Yesterday, Obama said again that he would close the prison. He’s been saying that for years. He said the situation was “not sustainable.” He said, essentially, that he’s going to give it another try. Not sustainable? Give it another try? That’s what he has to say about 130 people starving themselves to death because of his policies?

Regarding the remarks yesterday, Benjamin Wittes, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, had this to say:  

“The President’s comments are bewildering because his own policies give rise to the vast majority of the concerns about which he so earnestly delivered  himself in these remarks. Remember that Obama himself has imposed a moratorium on repatriating people to Yemen. And Obama himself has insisted that nearly 50 detainees cannot either be tried or transferred.”

It’s a disgrace. It’s a crime.

It is a shameful, shameful moment in the history of our nation.

Is this the kind of country we want to be?

What you can do: Write to the president, your senator and your representative in Congress and demand an immediate resolution to the concerns of these unfairly imprisoned people and their treatment.

and sign the petition:

More on the situation at the prison camp and Obama’s failure to act: 6 horrifying facts every American should know about Guantanamo Bay and the ongoing hunger strike.

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