[Ppnews] Inside Guantánamo: An unprecedented rebellion leaves a notorious detention centre in crisis

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sun May 5 18:15:13 EDT 2013

*Inside Guantánamo: An unprecedented rebellion leaves a notorious 
detention centre in crisis*

Special Report: Lawyers and human rights groups say it is just a matter 
of time before the detainees start to die


Terri Judd

Sunday, 5 May 2013

          Emaciated and frail, more than 100 men lie on concrete floors
          of freezing, solitary cells in Guantánamo, silently starving
          themselves to death.

Stripped of all possessions, even basics such as a sleeping mat or soap, 
they lie listlessly as guards periodically bang on the steel doors and 
shout at them to move an arm or leg to prove they are still conscious.

The notorious detention centre is in crisis, suffering a rebellion of 
unprecedented scale, with most of the camp on lockdown and around 
two-thirds of the 166 detainees on hunger strike.

This week 40 American military nurses were drafted in to try to stem a 
mass suicide. The last Brit inside, Shaker Aamer, has said he is 
prepared to strike to his death.

The US administration does its best to keep prying eyes from the 
unfolding tragedy but the The Independent has obtained first-hand reports.

Twice a day, the 23 most weak are taken into a room. Their wrists, arms, 
stomach, legs and head are strapped to a chair and repeated attempts are 
made to force a tube down their noses into their stomachs. It is an ugly 
procedure as they gag and wretch, blood dripping from their nostrils. 
"They won't let us live in peace and now they won't let us die in 
peace," said detainee, Fayiz Al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti held for 11 years 
without charge.

Four are so ill that they lie in shackles in the hospital wing and 
insiders predict it is only a matter of time before one perishes.

"It is possible that I may die in here," said Mr Aamer, 44, through his 
lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, recently. "I hope not, but if I do die, 
please tell my children that I loved them above all else, but that I had 
to stand up for the principle that they cannot just keep holding people 
without a trial, especially when they have been cleared for release," 
said the father of four, who remains in Camp 5 despite being approved 
for release more than five years ago. "Sad to say, torture and abuse 
continue in Guantánamo Bay and the US is throwing away yet more of its 
dwindling moral authority," added Mr Stafford Smith.

The protest, which began on 6 February, has now spread through Camp 6 
and Camp 5 with an estimated 100 to 130 taking part. These are not the 
high value detainees kept in Camp 7, the handful charged with terror 
offences. The hunger strikers are those who have waited a decade or more 
without trial, including 86 cleared for release but remain trapped 
because of restrictions imposed by Congress.

As President Barack Obama pledged to press for Guantánamo's closure this 
week, detainees described how it has gone back to the draconian regime 
of the Bush administration.

"Defence lawyers have tried to engage in constructive dialogue but we 
have been met with resistance and silence," explained US Army Captain 
Jason Wright, a lawyer who described seeing his client Obaidullah, now a 
115lb "bag of bones" , a few days ago as "extremely distressing".

"I have pain in waist, dizziness. I cannot sleep well. I fell [sic] 
hopeless. I cannot exercise. My muscle become weaker in the last 50 
days. I have thrown up five times," wrote Obaidullah, a 32-year-old 
Afghan who has never been charged despite 11 years imprisonment.

"When I walked into the room he was demonstrably changed. He said, 'They 
won't treat us with dignity, they are treating us like dogs'. There is 
an urgency. It is clear that if this hunger strike continues there will 
be deaths. These men are going to die in this prison for nothing. It is 
an absolute outrage," said Capt Wright.

"The hunger strike is a political protest. The fact that they are being 
treated in this manner is contrary to international law and 
un-American," he added. The protest began on 6 February when, according 
to lawyers, the new administration decided to end "an era of 
permissiveness" and take a more punitive approach, in contravention with 
the Geneva Convention, which calls for preventative detention. Guards 
confiscated all "comfort items" but what inflamed inmates most was a 
search of their Korans, an act the administration denies.

Prisoners began writing SOS on the outside of their cells but the 
protest passed peacefully until 13 April when guards used rubber bullets 
to move inmates from communal cell blocks, where they had covered 
cameras, and some responded with "improvised weapons" such as broom handles.

First-hand reports this week reveal that most prisoners are now being 
held in solitary confinement in empty, windowless cells just 12ft by 
8ft. Clean water is rationed, they say, and they have been stripped off 
all possessions.

They complain the air-conditioning has been turned up to an icy level, 
guards deliberately disturb prayer times and turn up throughout the 
night to take them for showers.

Describing sleeping on a concrete floor, using his shoes as a pillow, 
Moroccan Younous Chekkouri said via phone to his lawyers at the charity 
Reprieve: "Pain starts immediately when I'm on the floor. Pain in my 
neck, pain in my chest. Finally at night they gave us blankets. It was 
very cold. Water is now a privilege. They are treating us like animals," 
he added. "I thought my torture had ended, but what is happening now is 

Amnesty was among several human rights organisations to describe the 
situation at the camp in Cuba as "at crisis point" this week while UN 
special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez condemned the continued 
detention as "cruel, inhuman and degrading".

Omar Deghayes, 43, a British  resident who was released without charge 
in 2007, recalled the effect of two shorter hunger strikes. Lying in a 
"fridge-like" cell, he said he could barely stand within four days and 
was consumed with hunger and pains.

"You start to hallucinate. When people talk to you, you can't understand 
them. I started to hear voices. Then I started to vomit blood and puss. 
Your stomach contracts and when they force feed large quantities, you 
can't control anything, you get diarrhoea on your trousers. They take 
you into the yard and hose you down."

Most people cannot survive losing more than 40 per cent of their body 
weight. Once fat stores are depleted, the body begins to consume the 
muscles and vital organs for energy. A large number on the current 
hunger strike have lost around a third of their body weight. While some 
are keeping alive by using a vitamin and mineral drink, 23 are now being 

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Wingard, a lawyer who visited Mr Al-Kandari, 
this week, explained: "He said they strap you to a chair, tie up your 
wrists, your legs, your forehead and tightly around the waist. The tube 
makes his eyes water excessively and blood begins to trickle from the 
nose. Once the tube passes his throat the gag reflex kicks in. Warm 
liquid is poured into the body for 45 minutes to two hours. He feels 
like his body is going to convulse and often vomits.

"He is emaciated, down from 150lb to 100lb. He can't walk. He finds is 
difficult to concentrate. He burps all the time as his stomach eats 
itself," added the US Air Force officer, who described the treatment as 
"beyond hypocrisy".

The Department of Defence said yesterday it used enteral feeding only 
when a detainee's life was in danger. Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale 
added detainees had the highest standards of humane treatment.

"Detainees are not punished for hunger striking. However, we will not 
allow them to harm themselves," he said, adding: "We will not allow them 
to commit suicide by starving themselves to death."

Prisoners complain, however, that instead of leaving the tube in, they 
reinsert it twice a day. Dr Jeremy Lazarus, president of the American 
Medical Association, wrote to Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel recently to 
complain that force feeding was in violation of medical ethics.

Capt Wright, who travelled on the same plane as the nurses, said this 
week: "I can't imagine they understood what they are being asked to do 
for their country. I don't think they knew how horrific it would be. I 
hope some of them have the courage to say no."

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863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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