‘We could end this strike in a week’ – Gitmo attorney

As Guantanamo marks 100 days since the start of its hunger strike, RT has taken the opportunity to hear three different sides to the story – among them the prison’s spokesman, a lawyer for the detainees and a UN torture watchdog official.

It remains unclear when any concrete steps would be taken to
address the prisoners’ grievances, when over half of them have
already been declared innocent.  The situation continues to be
dire with regard to the prisoners’ health, and yet there is still
no clarity on just how severe things really are. On top of that,
allegations of inhumane and cruel treatment continue.

Follow RT’s
day-by-day timeline of the Gitmo hunger strike.

There are also disagreements within the White House, with
President Barack Obama having long expressed his desire to shut the
prison down (since his presidential victory back in 2008), but
alleging that the US Congress is standing in his way. Similarly,
former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was found to have sent a
January memo to the White House asking for the start of the
transfer of the 86 prisoners that have been cleared for release,
 but her request was shot down, according to sources speaking
to Newsweek.

Nonetheless, some semblance of progress on the issue is being
made, as US attorney general Eric Holder gave an indication on
Capitol Hill on Wednesday that the Obama administration may indeed
be readying a transfer of Guantanamo’s Yemeni population, which is
a large portion of the 86 prisoners who have been found innocent on
lack of evidence. Those prisoner transfers remain one of the
biggest reasons for the continuing hunger strike.

And yet, there are wildly differing versions as to what actually
goes on inside the prison.

The front gate of Camp Delta is shown at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Reuters / Joe Skipper)

RT interviewed Guantanamo’s spokesman Robert Durand, who denied
any and all allegations leveled at the prison’s authorities by the
many lawyers and human rights advocates over the 11 years of its
operation.

“They’ve been leveling these allegations for 11 years. We get
visited by the ICRC [the International Committee of the Red Cross].
None of these allegations have ever been substantiated. We welcome
the oversight of our commander, of the ICRC. We couldn’t operate
this place as we do for 11 years with the kind of incredible
allegations that they keep replaying over and over. It’s just not
true.”

He also described a dilemma the prison has been facing with
choosing to view the strike as a group or an individual action,
alluding to religious and peer pressure as the main components.
Therefore, according to Durand it would be difficult to avoid the
duty of sustaining someone’s life under the circumstances.

“There is tremendous peer pressure, tremendous religious and
military pressure that you will hunger strike to the death and the
matter of autonomy, unlike someone who was by themselves and wanted
to commit suicide  or hunger strike on their own for a means
of protest, we don’t know that they’re making that decision on
their own, so our policy is to preserve life.”

Durand went on to recount the much debated procedures of
force-feeding and cavity searches, which he claimed were not as
severe and thorough as has been described by opponents of the
prison. His bottom line on the issue was that the policy of the
United States is to sustain life by lawful means, at all
costs. 
Durand maintained that the strike is an entirely drummed-up event
and that the real reasons the prisoners have acted are nothing to
do with inhuman conditions, but a pursuit of media attention in
light of the government’s and media silence on the issue.

“I believe they acted together, chose an event to say ‘this
is what we’ll create outrage over’. They started in mid-February
saying they were 100 hunger strikers, when there were only six. The
number’s built up over time and they’re 100 today, so they’ve
accomplished their media goal. But they haven’t asked us to correct
any conditions in the camp. Al they want is media attention, to
restart the process of transferring out. And to an extent they’ve
achieved that mission: the president is talking about it; the
Congress is talking about it; diplomats are talking about
it.”

A detainee is escorted by U.S. Navy guards in Camp Four, the facility containing the "most compliant" detainees, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Reuters / Joe Skipper)


It remains to be seen if the prisoners will be
successful on any of their pleas. And of course, the question of
prison conditions hangs in the air, as no one has yet been able to
completely ascertain whose version of the story is true and which
one is exaggerated.

‘All of them are without charge. All of them are
innocent.’

Carlos Warner, who is a US Federal Public Defender, has a total
of 11 clients at Guantanamo, 10 of them currently on hunger strike.
He outlined their reasons for striking as follows:

“It was sparked by the military and it was sparked by a
change of command, and the military continues to do all the wrong
things. But the reason is the hopelessness and the fact that
President Obama still has not made any moves to close
Guantanamo.”

Perhaps the most pertinent point Warner makes in the case
against Guantanamo are that a vast majority of its prisoners remain
in a state of suspension, without charge, and that to this day
there is no evidence to implicate them in anything.

“All of them are without charge. First of all, all of them
are innocent. Certainly there isn’t evidence that could put all of
them on trial, but we know that 86 of 166 our government has
admitted are innocent and should be immediately released and are
not a danger and they have places to go. So it remains on the
President’s shoulders to do what’s right here and release these
men.”

Warner points to the strained relationship that exists within
the government as well, alluding to the recent news of former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s memo that pleads with the
government to get the transfers of innocent prisoners underway. But
the request was shot down.

RT asked Warner if there was any truth to the claims of
Guantanamo spokesman Robert Durand about comfortable prison
conditions and the “non-invasive” methods they have of getting the
prisoners to comply with certain procedures. Warner denied all
this, asking us to remember past statements and actions of the
prison’s administration.

“Remember this is the same military that denied a strike was
going on for a long time. It’s the same military that yesterday
said if you’re extracted from your cell, a tube shoved down your
nose, that’s not force-feeding. So you have innocent men in
solitary confinement and the military has begun new procedures,
like searching the men’s genital areas before they come to talk to
lawyers. They’ve never done this before. They’ve employed this
tactic to try to keep the men away from the lawyers.”
Detainees speak in the recreation area in Camp Six, the highest security prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Reuters / Joe Skipper)

The big question is always whether the military has any real
choice in the matter. After all, they have sworn to preserve life
at any cost, according to Robert Durand of the prison
administration. Warner makes a case for the detainees’ actions by
asserting that it is firstly a peaceful strike, and explaining that
the men imprisoned in Guantanamo simply believe they have no other
choice than to either die quietly or not, and they have chosen the
latter.

Warner, Obama’s supporter, continued by remembering the
president’s words: “’We have two bad choices – either they die
or we force-feed them.’ Well, I believe there’s a third
choice”,
Warner says. “Releasing the innocent men – which
Obama has the power to do. That would end the strike. The military
has another choice too. They can negotiate with the men and with
people like me. If they did that, we could end this strike in a
week…but instead of de-escalating, they escalate over and over. It
makes you wonder if the military wants this to continue!”

A U.S. Army guard stands in a corridor of cells in Camp Five, a facility at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Reuters / Joe Skipper)

And finally, Warner directs attention to the fact that it was
the military themselves who had said that the strike was “not a
sustainable situation”, which puts in question just how long the
Guantanamo ordeal is to last. The prisoners simply cannot survive
on the tube-feeding formula. Furthermore, the question of Congress
is seen as a non-issue: President Obama does have the power to
start prisoner transfers, according to Warner. It is unclear why he
hasn’t done so until now.

“He likes to blame Congress, because it satisfies people on
the left. The bottom line is – he has the authority…and he stated
that Guantanamo is not in the interests of national security… it’s
not a matter of Congress, but of whether he has the political
courage to release them.”


Video:
/files/news/1f/16/b0/00/original_warner_-_gitmo_attorney_may_16.asf

‘They did invite me, but I couldn’t talk to the inmates’

Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, told RT that he
had been pressing the US government to let him in for inspections.
But in the end he simply couldn’t accept the Department of
Defense’s invitation, because it was too limited and would prevent
him from carrying out his duties to the full – one of them being
allowed the unrestricted ability to talk to any prisoner without
supervision.

“I was invited after insisting, but under my mandate I
couldn’t accept. Everywhere I go, in every country, I have to be
able to visit every part of the facility and have private
conversations with inmates of my choosing without there being any
repercussions. The DOD did invite me to come…but they told me I
could not visit and have private conversations with
inmates.”

Mendez has not backed down and is continuing to insist on a
visit to the facility in a way that would satisfy the UN’s concerns
for international standards.

“For us the most important thing is: 1) to allow unfettered
visits to Guantanamo – which they [the US government] are not
doing; 2) to solve the problem of those inmates that have been
cleared for release and release them; 3) to try those who have to
be tried under due process and fair trial guarantees, and finally –
close Guantanamo. That’s basically the agenda of our engagement
with the United States government on that.”

Although Mendez did stress the UN “never said that
force-feeding was torture”
, he concludes that it amounted to
cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which is also an offense,
and something that requires prompt action on the part of the United
States.

Below is a video of our full conversation with Juan
Mendez:


Video:
/files/news/1f/16/b0/00/original_juan_mendez_un_torture_watchdog_on_gitmo_may_16.asf

Source Article from http://rt.com/news/guantanamo-prisoners-hunger-strike-339/

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

‘We could end this strike in a week’ – Gitmo attorney

As Guantanamo marks 100 days since the start of its hunger strike, RT has taken the opportunity to hear three different sides to the story – among them the prison’s spokesman, a lawyer for the detainees and a UN torture watchdog official.

It remains unclear when any concrete steps would be taken to
address the prisoners’ grievances, when over half of them have
already been declared innocent.  The situation continues to be
dire with regard to the prisoners’ health, and yet there is still
no clarity on just how severe things really are. On top of that,
allegations of inhumane and cruel treatment continue.

Follow RT’s
day-by-day timeline of the Gitmo hunger strike.

There are also disagreements within the White House, with
President Barack Obama having long expressed his desire to shut the
prison down (since his presidential victory back in 2008), but
alleging that the US Congress is standing in his way. Similarly,
former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was found to have sent a
January memo to the White House asking for the start of the
transfer of the 86 prisoners that have been cleared for release,
 but her request was shot down, according to sources speaking
to Newsweek.

Nonetheless, some semblance of progress on the issue is being
made, as US attorney general Eric Holder gave an indication on
Capitol Hill on Wednesday that the Obama administration may indeed
be readying a transfer of Guantanamo’s Yemeni population, which is
a large portion of the 86 prisoners who have been found innocent on
lack of evidence. Those prisoner transfers remain one of the
biggest reasons for the continuing hunger strike.

And yet, there are wildly differing versions as to what actually
goes on inside the prison.

The front gate of Camp Delta is shown at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Reuters / Joe Skipper)

RT interviewed Guantanamo’s spokesman Robert Durand, who denied
any and all allegations leveled at the prison’s authorities by the
many lawyers and human rights advocates over the 11 years of its
operation.

“They’ve been leveling these allegations for 11 years. We get
visited by the ICRC [the International Committee of the Red Cross].
None of these allegations have ever been substantiated. We welcome
the oversight of our commander, of the ICRC. We couldn’t operate
this place as we do for 11 years with the kind of incredible
allegations that they keep replaying over and over. It’s just not
true.”

He also described a dilemma the prison has been facing with
choosing to view the strike as a group or an individual action,
alluding to religious and peer pressure as the main components.
Therefore, according to Durand it would be difficult to avoid the
duty of sustaining someone’s life under the circumstances.

“There is tremendous peer pressure, tremendous religious and
military pressure that you will hunger strike to the death and the
matter of autonomy, unlike someone who was by themselves and wanted
to commit suicide  or hunger strike on their own for a means
of protest, we don’t know that they’re making that decision on
their own, so our policy is to preserve life.”

Durand went on to recount the much debated procedures of
force-feeding and cavity searches, which he claimed were not as
severe and thorough as has been described by opponents of the
prison. His bottom line on the issue was that the policy of the
United States is to sustain life by lawful means, at all
costs. 
Durand maintained that the strike is an entirely drummed-up event
and that the real reasons the prisoners have acted are nothing to
do with inhuman conditions, but a pursuit of media attention in
light of the government’s and media silence on the issue.

“I believe they acted together, chose an event to say ‘this
is what we’ll create outrage over’. They started in mid-February
saying they were 100 hunger strikers, when there were only six. The
number’s built up over time and they’re 100 today, so they’ve
accomplished their media goal. But they haven’t asked us to correct
any conditions in the camp. Al they want is media attention, to
restart the process of transferring out. And to an extent they’ve
achieved that mission: the president is talking about it; the
Congress is talking about it; diplomats are talking about
it.”

A detainee is escorted by U.S. Navy guards in Camp Four, the facility containing the "most compliant" detainees, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Reuters / Joe Skipper)


It remains to be seen if the prisoners will be
successful on any of their pleas. And of course, the question of
prison conditions hangs in the air, as no one has yet been able to
completely ascertain whose version of the story is true and which
one is exaggerated.

‘All of them are without charge. All of them are
innocent.’

Carlos Warner, who is a US Federal Public Defender, has a total
of 11 clients at Guantanamo, 10 of them currently on hunger strike.
He outlined their reasons for striking as follows:

“It was sparked by the military and it was sparked by a
change of command, and the military continues to do all the wrong
things. But the reason is the hopelessness and the fact that
President Obama still has not made any moves to close
Guantanamo.”

Perhaps the most pertinent point Warner makes in the case
against Guantanamo are that a vast majority of its prisoners remain
in a state of suspension, without charge, and that to this day
there is no evidence to implicate them in anything.

“All of them are without charge. First of all, all of them
are innocent. Certainly there isn’t evidence that could put all of
them on trial, but we know that 86 of 166 our government has
admitted are innocent and should be immediately released and are
not a danger and they have places to go. So it remains on the
President’s shoulders to do what’s right here and release these
men.”

Warner points to the strained relationship that exists within
the government as well, alluding to the recent news of former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s memo that pleads with the
government to get the transfers of innocent prisoners underway. But
the request was shot down.

RT asked Warner if there was any truth to the claims of
Guantanamo spokesman Robert Durand about comfortable prison
conditions and the “non-invasive” methods they have of getting the
prisoners to comply with certain procedures. Warner denied all
this, asking us to remember past statements and actions of the
prison’s administration.

“Remember this is the same military that denied a strike was
going on for a long time. It’s the same military that yesterday
said if you’re extracted from your cell, a tube shoved down your
nose, that’s not force-feeding. So you have innocent men in
solitary confinement and the military has begun new procedures,
like searching the men’s genital areas before they come to talk to
lawyers. They’ve never done this before. They’ve employed this
tactic to try to keep the men away from the lawyers.”
Detainees speak in the recreation area in Camp Six, the highest security prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Reuters / Joe Skipper)

The big question is always whether the military has any real
choice in the matter. After all, they have sworn to preserve life
at any cost, according to Robert Durand of the prison
administration. Warner makes a case for the detainees’ actions by
asserting that it is firstly a peaceful strike, and explaining that
the men imprisoned in Guantanamo simply believe they have no other
choice than to either die quietly or not, and they have chosen the
latter.

Warner, Obama’s supporter, continued by remembering the
president’s words: “’We have two bad choices – either they die
or we force-feed them.’ Well, I believe there’s a third
choice”,
Warner says. “Releasing the innocent men – which
Obama has the power to do. That would end the strike. The military
has another choice too. They can negotiate with the men and with
people like me. If they did that, we could end this strike in a
week…but instead of de-escalating, they escalate over and over. It
makes you wonder if the military wants this to continue!”

A U.S. Army guard stands in a corridor of cells in Camp Five, a facility at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Reuters / Joe Skipper)

And finally, Warner directs attention to the fact that it was
the military themselves who had said that the strike was “not a
sustainable situation”, which puts in question just how long the
Guantanamo ordeal is to last. The prisoners simply cannot survive
on the tube-feeding formula. Furthermore, the question of Congress
is seen as a non-issue: President Obama does have the power to
start prisoner transfers, according to Warner. It is unclear why he
hasn’t done so until now.

“He likes to blame Congress, because it satisfies people on
the left. The bottom line is – he has the authority…and he stated
that Guantanamo is not in the interests of national security… it’s
not a matter of Congress, but of whether he has the political
courage to release them.”


Video:
/files/news/1f/16/b0/00/original_warner_-_gitmo_attorney_may_16.asf

‘They did invite me, but I couldn’t talk to the inmates’

Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, told RT that he
had been pressing the US government to let him in for inspections.
But in the end he simply couldn’t accept the Department of
Defense’s invitation, because it was too limited and would prevent
him from carrying out his duties to the full – one of them being
allowed the unrestricted ability to talk to any prisoner without
supervision.

“I was invited after insisting, but under my mandate I
couldn’t accept. Everywhere I go, in every country, I have to be
able to visit every part of the facility and have private
conversations with inmates of my choosing without there being any
repercussions. The DOD did invite me to come…but they told me I
could not visit and have private conversations with
inmates.”

Mendez has not backed down and is continuing to insist on a
visit to the facility in a way that would satisfy the UN’s concerns
for international standards.

“For us the most important thing is: 1) to allow unfettered
visits to Guantanamo – which they [the US government] are not
doing; 2) to solve the problem of those inmates that have been
cleared for release and release them; 3) to try those who have to
be tried under due process and fair trial guarantees, and finally –
close Guantanamo. That’s basically the agenda of our engagement
with the United States government on that.”

Although Mendez did stress the UN “never said that
force-feeding was torture”
, he concludes that it amounted to
cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which is also an offense,
and something that requires prompt action on the part of the United
States.

Below is a video of our full conversation with Juan
Mendez:


Video:
/files/news/1f/16/b0/00/original_juan_mendez_un_torture_watchdog_on_gitmo_may_16.asf

Source Article from http://rt.com/news/guantanamo-prisoners-hunger-strike-339/

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

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