Video: Andy Worthington Discusses the Guantánamo Hunger Strike on Press TV


For the last fortnight I have been writing about, and discussing the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo, in my articles “A Huge Hunger Strike at Guantánamo” and “How Long Can the Government Pretend that the Massive Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Doesn’t Exist?” and in an appearance on RT, which I wrote about here.

Below, via YouTube, is my most recent TV appearance to discuss the hunger strike, which involved a late night Skype call from Press TV at 2am on March 20.

I hope you have the opportunity to watch it, and to share it if you find it useful.

To recap briefly on the situation at Guantánamo, it is clear that, for the last six weeks, over 100 of the remaining 166 prisoners — and perhaps as many as 130 — have been refusing meals, in protest at deteriorating conditions at the prison, including aggressive cell searches, the seizure of their possessions and correspondence (including supposedly confidential correspondence with their attorneys), and mistreatment of their copies of the Koran.

However, it is also clear that one of the main drivers of the hunger strike is the despair induced by eleven years of imprisonment without charge or trial, with no end to the prisoners’ ordeal in sight, after President Obama failed to fulfill his promise to close the prison, and abandoned the men.

Although 86 of them were cleared for release by an inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama himself, their release has been blocked by Congress, and, in the cases of the Yemenis, who make up two-thirds of the cleared prisoners, by President Obama himself, who imposed a ban on releasing any of them — on the basis of their nationality alone — in January 2010, after a would-be plane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian recruited in Yemen, was seized on a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

46 others were designated for indefinite detention by President Obama’s Task Force, on the basis that they are too dangerous to release, even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. This was a disgraceful position for the Obama administration to take, as “insufficient evidence” is shorthand for unreliable evidence, consisting of untrustworthy statements made by other prisoners, both in Guantánamo and in the CIA’s global network of “black sites.” However, President Obama endorsed the detention of these men — 48 in total, reduced to 46 when two of them died — in an executive order two years ago, when he also promised periodic reviews of the men’s cases. Those reviews, however, have not taken place, providing another powerful reason for the men at Guantánamo to feel abandoned.

Thanks for your interest in this story. I will continue to cover it, in the hope that it will persuade President Obama to rouse himself from his inertia before more prisoners die. To demand action from President Obama, and from Secretary of State John Kerry, please see this article on the website of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, of which I am a founder, and a member of the steering committee, with the attorney Tom Wilner, who represented the Guantánamo prisoners in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008.

Note: For further information, please also see this interview with my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, on RT.

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, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “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 please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign”, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

12 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m just in from a long day trip to Birmingham to talk about Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer and the hunger strike with Birmingham University’s Amnesty International society. It was a great turn out, and a very attentive crowd – and afterwards they took me out for a curry! I hope it explains why I’m so late posting this!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Louise Gordon wrote:

    Funds Sought for New Guantánamo Jail

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Louise. Time for me to write a new article about the extortionate cost of maintaining Guantanamo – especially for the 86 cleared men still held. At the last count it cost $72 million a year to hold them. We should send the bill to Congress, and get the lawmakers to pay for it.
    For the $72 million cost, see:

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Waris Ali wrote:

    Just listen to the response the foreign office gave to RT when they asked them to comment on the Hunger Strike in Guantanamo and shaker amer, the response they gave seemed like it was the standard one from a few years ago >>

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Waris. Yes, Olga from RT read it out to me about an hour ago. We laughed about it – in a rather dark and cynical manner, of course. I’ll be talking to RT again at 7pm GMT.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Mark Matthews wrote:

    Is anyone actually guilty of any crime being held there?

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Very important question, Mark. We know that there are a handful of people accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, the attack on the USS Cole and the African embassy bombings, but they haven’t had trials, so it would be presumptuous to state categorically that we know they’re guilty.
    Very few of those held are genuinely accused of involvement with terrorism, however. Some attended training camps – and may even have heard a lecture by Osama bin Laden – but they then fought with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, ad had nothing to do with terrorism. Others were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were involved in missionary work or humanitarian aid, or were refugees or economic migrants. Remember that many of them were seized in pakistan, and not anywhere near the battlefields of Afghanistan, and that very few were seized by US forces, and the vast majority were handed over by America’s Afghan or Pakistani allies, at a time when the US was offering substantial bounty payments for foreigners who could be passed off as al-Qaeda or the Taliban. On addition, many Afghans were sold by their fellow countrymen.
    One of the biggest problems with the “war on terror,” of which Guantanamo is still such a lasting reminder, is that the Bush administration equated the Taliban with al-Qaeda, and wanted to hold everyone it captured – or otherwise took possession of – without any rights whatsoever. And the men still held are still not either criminal suspects, who could be charged with a crime – terrorism – or enemy prisoners of war, who might legitimately ask when the conflict, in connection with which they were seized, will come to an end so they can be returned home.
    It’s a mess, but there appears to be no desire in the corridors of power to return to depriving people of their liberty solely as a result of trials, or as prisoners of war. And until that happens, we will remain in the dark and disturbing place in which we currently find ourselves – where drone strikes, or extrajudicial execution, have taken over from unjustifiable detention policies as America’s weapon of choice.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Waris Ali wrote:

    In terms of the cost of keeping them there, that’s the kind of thing that should be on Billboards in the USA, those young people for example who voted for Obama in 2008 on his promise to close Guantanamo, or Ron Paul in 2012 due to his foreign and domestic policy, the youth are the ideal people to highlight this issue in there communities and cities. Along with some snappy lines like, 86 detainees have been CLEARED for release by OUR Presidents.. Many of them TWICE Most of the people were NOT captured on the battlefield, they were kidnapped and then SOLD for huge sums of MONEY to American Forces.. FACT Have to counter the bullshit the mainstream media spout out in the USA and the stuff they leave out. Though more and more are turning away from the likes of Fox News and other mainstream sources and getting it from more independent and alternative outlets, from what i’ve been reading, right?

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Waris, it’s question of chipping away. There’s no magic soundbite. “86 of the 166 are cleared for release but still held” is as snappy as it gets, but then you have to explain how and why. All of us involved in publicising these issues in the US make the facts accessible, but they’re not as accessible as: 1) Hey, we’re Americans. We’re the greatest nation that ever existed, and 2) We were told they’re “the worst of the worst.”

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Waris Ali wrote:

    Indeed, The how and the why is what all you guys are doing and are highlighting as much as you can. Kudos to RT for really highlighting what’s going on. The two magic lines that you mention, yupp those were and still are drilled into peoples brains alright.

  11. Andy Worthington: Gitmo Guards Brutally Hurt Prisoners | Dandelion Salad says...

    […] the last British resident in the prison), and I have also spoken about the hunger strike on RT and Press TV, on the radio with Dennis Bernstein, Peter B. Collins and Michael Slate, and in print in an […]

  12. US Authorities’ Brutal Response to the Guantánamo Hunger Strike | MasterAdrian2nd says...

    […] the last British resident in the prison), and I have also spoken about the hunger strike on RT and Press TV, on the radio with Dennis Bernstein, Peter B. Collins and Michael Slate, and in print in an […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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