Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Justice for the Guantanamo prisoners

A call from Code Pink to join a global hunger strike for justice for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

-The situation at the prison in Guantanamo is at a crisis point, with desperate prisoners refusing to eat. Over 100 of the 166 prisoners left in Guantanamo are on a hunger strike. Many are being brutally force-fed. The United Nations Human Rights Commission considers the practice of force-feeding—in which detainees are strapped to a restraining chair, have tubes pushed up their nostrils and liquids pumped down their throats—a clear form of torture. One detainee said the process felt like a "razor blade [going] down through your nose and into your throat." Prisoner Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel said, “I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”

-President of the American Medical Association, Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, has called force feeding unethical and inhumane. “The administration cannot force feed its way out of this growing medical emergency,” he said.

-Of the 166 prisoners, 86 have been cleared for release and must be released. The last time a prisoner left Guantanamo was September 2012. Fifty-seven of the cleared detainees are from Yemen and the present government—a US ally—wants these men returned home. One cleared detainee is a British citizen, Shaker Aamer. He has been cleared for release twice, but is still behind bars after 11 years. Kuwaiti prisoner Fouzi Al Awda, has been held for 11 years while the Kuwaiti government, another US ally, has repeatedly called for his repatriation.

-What can President Obama do? Congress has imposed unprecedented restrictions on detainee transfers, but President Obama still has the power to transfer men right now. He should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees.

-According to the ACLU, there are two essential first steps the president must take. One is to appoint a senior point person so that the administration's Guantánamo closure policy is directed by the White House and not by Pentagon bureaucrats. The president can also order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer detainees who have been cleared, which is more than half the Guantánamo population.

-The President must demonstrate immediate, tangible progress toward the closure of Guantanamo or the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.

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