Guantánamo Prisoners Stage Peaceful Protest and Hunger Strike on 10th Anniversary of the Opening of the Prison

10.1.12

Today, prisoners at Guantánamo will embark on a peaceful protest, involving sit-ins and hunger strikes, to protest about their continued detention, and the continued existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, three years after President Obama came to office promising to close it within a year, and to show their appreciation of the protests being mounted on their behalf  by US citizens, who are gathering in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to stage a rally and march to urge the President to fulfill his broken promise.

Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York, and one of the attorneys for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, said that his client, who is held in isolation in Camp 5, told him on his last visit that the prisoners would embark on a peaceful protest and hunger strike for three days, from Jan. 10 to 12, to protest about the President’s failure to close Guantánamo as promised.

He explained that the men intended to inform the Officer in Charge ahead of the protest, to let the authorities know why there would be protests, and added that the prisoners were encouraged by the “expression of solidarity” from US citizens planning protests on Jan. 11, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

Kassem also said that another of his clients, in Camp 6, where most of the prisoners are held, and where, unlike Camp 5, they are allowed to socialize, stated that prisoners throughout the blocks were “extremely encouraged” by reports of the protests in Washington D.C.

The prisoner, who does not wish to be identified, also said that banners and signs had been prepared, and that there would be peaceful sit-ins in the communal areas. He added that the prisoners were concerned to let the outside world know that they still reject the injustice of their imprisonment, and feel that it is particularly important to let everyone know this, when the US government, under President Obama, is trying to persuade the world that “everything is OK” at Guantánamo, and that the prison is a humane, state of the art facility.

He also explained that the prisoners invited the press to come to Guantánamo and to request interviews with the prisoners, to hear about “the toll of a decade” of detention without charge or trial, and said that they “would like nothing more” than to have an independent civilian and medical delegation, accompanied by the press, be allowed to come and talk to the 171 men still held.

In Camp 5, Shaker Aamer and the other men still held there will not be able to stage a sit-in, as they are unable to leave their cells, but they will participate in the protests by refusing meals.

No one knows how the authorities will respond to the protests, especially as the new commander of Guantánamo, Navy Rear Adm. David Woods, has gained a reputation for punishing even the most minor infractions of the rules with solitary confinement.

According to Kassem, prisoners have complained that the new regime harks back to the worst days of Guantánamo, between 2002 and 2004, when punishments for non-cooperation were widespread.

Of the 171 men still held at Guantánamo, 89 were “approved for transfer” out of Guantánamo by a Task Force of career officials and lawyers from the various government departments and the intelligence agencies, and yet they remain held because of Congressional opposition and President Obama’s unwillingness to tackle his critics. 36 others were recommended for trials, and 46 others were designated for indefinite detention without charge pr trial, on the basis that they are too dangerous to release, but that there is insufficient evidence against them to put them on trial.

That is a disgraceful position for the government to take, as indefinite detention on the basis of information that cannot be used as evidence indicates that the information is either tainted by torture, or is unreliable hearsay. It remains unacceptable that President Obama approved the indefinite detention of these men in an executive order last March, even though he also promised that their cases would be subject to periodic review.

Just as disgraceful, however, is the fact that all of the 171 prisoners still at Guantánamo face indefinite detention, as none of them can leave the prison given the current restrictions. That ought to trouble anyone who cares about justice and fairness, and the protests by the prisoners, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, ought to convey, more eloquently than any other method, why the pressure to close the prison must be maintained.

Note: For further information, and to sign up to a new movement to close Guantánamo, please visit the new website, “Close Guantánamo,” which you can join here, and also please sign a new White House petition on the “We the People” website calling for the closure of Guantánamo. 25,000 signatures are needed by February 6.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

14 Responses

  1. Guantanamo Bay: a terrible tenth birthday | Edinburgh Eye says...

    [...] Bay: a terrible tenth birthday Today, prisoners at Guantánamo will embark on a peaceful protest, involving sit-ins and hunger strikes, to protest about their continued detention, and the [...]

  2. Fred Norman says...

    Dear Mr. Worthington, How can I get a copy of David Hicks’ book, “Guantanamo: My Journey”? Thanks for all of the work you do to try to close this horrible place. Please don’t stop. It will be done. Peace.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Fred. For David Hicks’ book, I think it depends where you are. Amazon, I believe, has copies — or perhaps e-books, depending on the territory …

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Gabriele Müller wrote:

    Thanks, Andy, sharing. Btw, saw this bit from the ACLU yesterday, good infographics for those who want the essence in a nutshell: http://www.aclu.org/national-security/guantanamo-numbers

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    HP Albarelli wrote:

    Great!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Lucia Sol wrote:

    shared!, good luck to them!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Gabriele, HP and Lucia. Good to hear from you all. Thanks also to everyone who’s shared this. It’s been an important story today, while I’ve been in D.C., at two great events — at the New America Foundation, and at Busboys and Poets, in an event hosted by The World Can’t Wait. Reports on those events soon …

  8. Cellar Door Week’s Distractions « Cellar Door says...

    [...] Awesome ——————————————————————– Guantánamo Prisoners Stage Peaceful Protest and Hunger Strike on 10th Anniversary of the Opening of… [...]

  9. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, thanks once again for all your important work.

    You wrote that most captives are held in Camp Six.

    I download and read JTF-GTMO’s weekly publication, “The Wire”.

    The 2012-01-06 and 2012-01-13 issues both had articles reflecting on the camp’s 10th year anniversary. The 2012-01-06 article was specific on how many captives were held in communal conditions in Camp Six — over 85 percent. But, when you do the math, this does not add up. http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File%3AThe_Wire_Issue_09v13.pdf&page=6

    Over 85 percent of 171 captives would be 144 captives. But we know that 16 former CIA “high value detainees” are held in Camp Platinum/Camp Seven. 4 Uyghurs are in Camp Iguana. 4 men convicted by a military commission are held in solitary confinement. Tariq al Sawah and a room-mate are held in a separate compound.

    That adds up to 170 men.

    We know Shaker Aamer is held in a refurbished shipping container in Camp Five Echo. That is 171 men.

    But we have strong reasons to suspect he is not the only captive in Camp Five Echo. Plus we know some captives were driven mad, and are held in the Psychiatric facility.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. And you’re right. Realistically, it would appear that the total in Camp Six can’t be as high as 85 percent. I’d like a coherent analysis, but I don’t know if there’s any way of obliging the military to release exact figures.

  11. “I Affirm Our Right to Life”: Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo, Explains His Peaceful Protest and Hunger Strike « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] Following this letter, Aamer was instrumental in organizing a peaceful hunger strike and protest on the tenth anniversary of the opening of the prison, on January 11 this year, which I reported here. [...]

  12. arcticredriver says...

    A recent article by Carol Rosenberg included a description of an (incoherent) briefing from the current camp warden, Colonel John Bogdan. http://t.co/MwGD8OW0sG He is the guy who claimed he was unaware of the hidden listening devices fitted into the rooms made available for the captives’ attorneys to meet with them.

    She tried to keep track of how many captives he said presented resistance to a round-up of all the captives in communal camp 6, last weekend. Initially it sounded like one dozen captives resisted. But later after his rambling and incoherent account, she wrote it might have been as many as 48 — which she wrote was “over half” the captives in camp 6.

    Well, a year ago, that JTF-GTMO publication reported that 85 percent of the captives were in camp 6. So, it sounds like the new tough guy guards, the new tough guy warden, and the new tough guy commandant had sent at least 50 additional captives to the isolation cells — prior to their decision to hold the entire population in isolation.

    Her article included quotes from “Captain John” and “Lieutenant Hermione” — two officers who cowardly declined to let their full names be published. Captain John’s comments about the captives’ sense of entitlement were particularly disturbing, given that he was talking about men who had not been convicted of a crime, had not even been charged, many of whom we know were completely innocent civilian bystanders when captured.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver, for analyzing the stats. It certainly seems to be the case that the authorities have resorted to mass isolation to restore “order,” without caring about the legitimacy of the prisoner’s complaints after 11 years of imprisonmnent without charge or trial, and with no end in sight.

  14. Guantánamo 10th Anniversary Protest | ZananTV ZananTV says...

    […] CCR also reported, and as I explained in an article just before the anniversary, “the men at Guantánamo were heartened by the planned protests marking the anniversary in […]

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