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ACTION ALERT Support Gitmo Hunger Strikers


March 24, 2013
Andy Worthington & The World Can't Wait

On March 14, 2013, 51 attorneys for prisoners at Guantánamo wrote to defense secretary Chuck Hagel to express "urgent and grave concern" about the mass hunger strike that has been taking place at the prison for the last five weeks, involving over a hundred of the 166 men still held -- and to urge him "to address the underlying causes of the strike and bring it to a prompt and acceptable end."

http://www.worldcantwait.net/index.php/torture/8185-hunger-strike-at-guantanamo-emergency-response-call-to-action

ACTION: Hunger Strike at Guantanamo
Emergency Response & Call to Action

Where is the world to save us from torture?
Where is the world to save us from the fire and the darkness?
Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?


-- from “Hunger Strike Poem” by Adnan Latif, 37 -- found dead in Guantanamo on Sept. 12, 2012


Background

(March 20, 2013) -- What would you do if you were imprisoned for more than ten years, without ever being charged with a crime? You were tortured and abused. You could not see your family. Your only visitors were interrogators and lawyers. And then you were cleared for release — deemed by your captors to be no threat — and told that the prison would close. But you remained locked up, with no end in sight. Who would hear your cries? What resistance could you mount?

This is the situation for dozens of men at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo. Fed up with their treatment and spurred by a new wave of abuses, they launched a hunger strike in February that is just now gaining attention in the U.S. press.

Most of the men in Camp 6, the largest in the Guantanamo prison complex, have been on hunger strike since February 6, 2013. Lawyers for prisoners say the men are protesting their indefinite confinement and what they consider intrusive searches of their Qurans. The U.S. government now admits that 21 men are refusing food, though the attorneys insist the number is much higher.

The health of those on hunger strike is deteriorating. Attorneys report that some men have lost 20-30 pounds and that at least two dozen have lost consciousness. According to medical experts, irreversible mental and physiological damage such as hearing loss, blindness, and hemorrhaging may begin to occur by the fortieth day of a hunger strike, and death follows thereafter.

The U.S. Navy reports that 8 men are being force-fed — a practice condemned by some human rights organizations as itself a form of torture, and used in efforts to “break” prior hunger strikes at Guantanamo.

166 men remain imprisoned at Guantanamo. 86 have been cleared for release. All are being subject to indefinite detention, held at the cost of $800,000 per year for each man, at a prison the President of the United States pledged to close on his first day of office in January 2009.
Hungering for Justice - Witness Against Torture Responds

We will gather for action in New York City, Chicago, Washington, DC, Des Moines, Western Massachusetts, and other cities domestically and internationally next week to denounce the barbaric practice of torture and indefinite detention and to demand justice for the men at Guantanamo.

Joined by allies worldwide, Witness Against Torture members will fast for 7 days -- Sunday, March 24 through Saturday, March 30-- in solidarity with the men in Guantanamo on hunger strike.

Some of us will continue fasting every Friday until President Barack Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo is fulfilled.

We will try to reach the men at Guantanamo, their families, and men formerly detained to let them know that we have not forgotten their suffering.

We will continue to organize, agitate and witness in defense of human rights and the U.S. Constitution.
Protesting torture - close Guantanamo, free the hunger strikersWhat You Can Do


Public Vigils/ Find a vigil near you. Or, organize your own event. Even a couple people together in orange and black hoods with signs can get a lot of attention.

Join the Fast
We invite you to join us in the fast for whatever period of time you can between March 24-30. We will host a reflection conference call on Thursday, March 21 for those fasting. Let us know if you are fasting for one day or more by emailing witnesstorture@gmail.com, and refer to our website for activities going on in New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., Northhampton MA, and other cities.

Skip a meal in solidarity with the men at Guantanamo
Flood the prison with mail. Skip a meal and use that time to send it, or donate the food cost to sending the letters (10 letters to Guantanamo cost $11.00). How to send a letter to a Guantanamo detainee.

Organize through social media
Take a photo of yourself in an orange jumpsuit and black hood in a public place (or with some relevant sign) and send to witnesstorture@gmail.com

Change your Facebook photo to this photo for the week of March 24-30 and post to your friends and networks about your protest.

Join the Facebook event and invite your friends.

Follow Witness Against Torture on Twitter @witnesstorture

Call the White House and U.S. Military

Call the White House and insist that President Obama fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo. 202-456-1111; submit a comment online.

Call the U.S. Southern Command to decry the conditions at Guantanamo. 305-437-1000

E-mail or write Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel and demand that he rapidly resume the transfers of all the men the Obama administration does not intend to charge.

Write: Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel, 1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301

* * * *
Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 Americans went to Guantánamo Bay to protest the detention facility. Since then, the group has organized vigils, marches, nonviolent direct actions, and educational events calling for the close of Guantánamo, an end to U.S. torture, accountability for the torturers, and justice for the victims. This call to action originally appeared on witnesstorture.org.



ACTION: Hunger Strike at Guantanamo

(March 21, 2013) -- First, from the Guantanamo lawyers, news came last month of the outrage from prisoners over a new regime of searches and confiscation of family photographs and reading material. We've been hearing for weeks now of a mass hunger strike, not only because of the insults and deprivation of the few connections they have with loved ones, but mainly because the prisoners are "buried alive" with no way to leave the illegitmate prison, even if they have been cleared for release years ago.

Candace Gorman, who gave up much of her practice in Chicago to represent men in GTMO, wrote yesterday that flights to GTMO have been suspended and asks whether that is “Just to make sure that our clients do not have the benefit of attorneys the new powers to be at Guantanamo have ruled that the planes that most of us take to and from Gitmo can no longer fly to the base. Perhaps it is because they don't want us reporting on the hunger strike as Jim White over at emptywheel suggests here.

Perhaps it is part of the year long struggle we have been having with the powers to be in which they tried to rewrite the protective order making it so that many of the attorneys could only visit the base at the discretion of the military....I covered that story here.

Or maybe it is simply because Obama has given up on closing the base and hopes that if we attorneys (and reporters) have enough trouble getting there maybe the coverage of Guantanamo will disappear. IT WONT. We have not put in this much time to just go quietly into the night…. Carol Rosenberg has more here...”

In a piece in Harper's on another subject, a passing statement to the effect that everyone knows Guantanamo won't close until all the prisoners have died, stopped me cold. Will we allow this?

Witness Against Torture contacted us yesterday with a plan for mass protest, and a support hunger strike. There are ALL KINDS of ways you can help focus public attention -- and thereby force the government to back off on these measures at GTMO. I urge you to join us.



How Long Can the Government Pretend t\
That the Massive Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Doesn’t Exist?

Andy Worthington / Andy Worthington.com

(March 17, 2013) -- I wrote the following article for the "Close Guantánamo" website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us -- just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

On March 14, 2013, 51 attorneys for prisoners at Guantánamo wrote to defense secretary Chuck Hagel to express "urgent and grave concern" about the mass hunger strike that has been taking place at the prison for the last five weeks, involving over a hundred of the 166 men still held -- and to urge him "to address the underlying causes of the strike and bring it to a prompt and acceptable end."

On March 4, some of the attorneys previously wrote to Rear Adm. John W. Smith, Jr., the Commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo, and Capt. Thomas J. Welsh, the Staff Judge Advocate, reporting "information received from clients about the hunger strike and its effects on the men." Although they requested an answer to their letter, no response was received, and in the meantime, as they explained in their letter to Chuck Hagel, "we have received additional reports from clients that the strike is ongoing and that the health of the men has continued to deteriorate in alarming and potentially irreparable ways."

As the lawyers proceeded to explain, "we understand that the hunger strike was precipitated by widespread searches of detainees' Qur'ans -- perceived as religious desecration -- as well as searches and confiscation of other personal items, including family letters and photographs, and legal mail, seemingly without provocation or cause.

We also understand that these searches occurred against a background of increasingly regressive practices at the prison taking place in recent months, which our clients have described as a return to an older regime at Guantánamo that was widely identified with the mistreatment of detainees. Indeed, the conditions being reported by the men appear to be a significant departure from the way in which the prison has operated over the past several years."

In addition, of course, the majority of the prisoners have lost hope that they will ever be released. Despite promising to close the prison on taking office over four years ago, President Obama gave in to cynical Congressional opposition to the release of prisoners, after releasing just 71 men, and also imposed his own unacceptable ban on releasing any Yemeni prisoners after a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, recruited in Yemen, tried and failed to blow up a plane on Christmas Day 2009.

Of the 166 men still held, 86 were cleared for release at least three years ago by President Obama's inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force -- and some were previously cleared for release by President Bush, between 2004 and 2007. Two-thirds of these men are Yemenis, and, by banning their release, President Obama not only consigned them to indefinite detention on the basis of their nationality alone; he also made a mockery of the official process through which they had been approved for transfer.

In addition, 46 men were designated for indefinite detention without charge or trial, in a disgraceful executive order issued by President Obama two years ago. This was disgraceful because it saw President Obama -- the man who promised to close Guantánamo -- instead authorizing indefinite detention without charge or trial, on the basis that these particular men were too dangerous to release, even though insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial.

In fact, this so-called evidence is deeply problematical, having been extracted through torture or other forms of abuse, and/or having been produced by deeply unreliable witnesses. The only concession to critics was Obama's promise that there would be periodic reviews of the men's cases. However, it was revealed in December that these reviews have not taken place.

Explaining more about the hunger strike, the attorneys wrote, "We understand that most of the men in Camp 6, which holds the largest number of detainees at Guantánamo, have been on hunger strike since February 6 to protest these practices. We have also received alarming reports of detainees' deteriorating health, including that men have lost over 20 and 30 pounds, and that at least two dozen men have lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels, which have dropped to life-threatening levels among some. The information we have reported has been corroborated by every attorney who has visited the base or communicated with their client since February."

They added, "According to medical experts, irreversible cognitive impairment and physiological damage such as loss of hearing, blindness, and hemorrhage may begin to occur by the 40th day of a hunger strike, and death follows thereafter. We would think officials charged with the care of detainees would consider these events urgent and gravely concerning; instead, JTF-GTMO officials have yet to offer any response other than to brush aside the reports by detainee counsel as ‘falsehoods.'"

This is a disgrace, of course -- and especially so because the authorities refuse to accept that it is taking place. As Carol Rosenberg reported for the Miami Herald, March 15 was "the first admission of a protest" acknowledged by the authorities, although it did not go far enough. Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for the prison authorities, denied "a widespread phenomenon, as alleged," but he conceded, "for the first time after weeks of denial," as Rosenberg put it, "that the number had surged to 14 from the five or six detainees who had for years been considered hunger strikers among the 166 captives at Guantánamo."

He added that one prisoner was in the hospital on Friday, and, as as Rosenberg put it, that five others "were being fed elsewhere through tubes tethered through their noses into their stomachs." Eight others "had not yet been sufficiently malnourished to merit tube feedings but had shunned enough consecutive meals and lost enough weight to meet the Pentagon's Guantánamo definition of a hunger striker."

The gulf between the prisoners' statements and the government's position is still immense however, and unfortunately the government has a terrible reputation for hiding the truth about Guantánamo -- including last September, when Adnan Latif, a Yemeni, and a cleared prisoner with mental health problems, died at the prison in circumstances that have not been adequately explained.

In their letter to Chuck Hagel, the attorneys for the prisoners reminded the new defense secretary that, "As a United States Senator, you took the position that mistreatment of prisoners at Guantánamo could not be tolerated because it was immoral and because it jeopardized the security of the United States." They added, "You also argued that the continued existence of the prison was one of the reasons why the United States was ‘losing the image war around the world.'"

Words can mean nothing, of course, as we know from the example provided by President Obama, but the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo does not go away by being ignored.

If men are not to die as a result of the hunger strike, senior officials need to act, and they need to act quickly. Pretending there are not fundamental, deep-seated and unacceptable problems at Guantánamo is not the way to do it. Cleared prisoners need freeing, and they need freeing now.

Andy Worthington is the author of >i>The Guantanamo 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. 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).

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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