‘Gitmo prisoners feel they are in a living tomb’

2161000 apw2002012829684 ‘Gitmo prisoners feel they are in a living tomb’

RT: Some inmates are said to be so sick, they’recoughing up blood. Others are being hospitalized and force-fed. Howbad is this hunger strike getting do you think?Andy Worthington: Well, it sound very bad and the problemthat we have is that on one hand we have the lawyers for the mentalking about how over 100 out of remaining 166 men are on a hungerstrike and this strike started last month. And on the other hand wehave the Obama administration apparently claiming that there is notvery much going on. So, that is not helping us to get any clarity,but of course that has always been the problem with Guantanamo,that this is a very opaque facility. However much theadministration, first of all Bush and now Obama has tried topretend that they are open about what is happening there. And thatisn’t true.And really, there’s an enormous sense of despair amongst theGuantanamo prisoners. We’ve got over half the men who were toldyears ago that they were going to be released, who are still held.We’ve got other men who were designated for indefinite detention,which is a terrible thing anyway. But Obama issued an executiveorder authorizing that, but promising that their cases to bereviewed. And they haven’t had their cases reviewed. The men theremust feel like they’re just in a living tomb.RT: What will this hunger strike achieve?AW: Well it is already achieving, I imagine part of whatthe purpose is, is to let the outside world know, that it is notacceptable for these men to be held forever with nobody making anymoves to release them, even though, as I say, more than half ofthem have been cleared for release, but they have been forgotten.And they have primarily been forgotten by the United Statesgovernment, by the United States media, and by the American people.And that it is really not acceptable.So we are talking about it here, but I’ve noticed that it isfiltering out gradually into the mainstream media and is gettingthe issue discussed. Because clearly the situation that we had forsome time now is that President Obama can’t really be bothered toovercome the opposition in Congress, can’t really be bothered totry and secure a decent legacy for himself by revisiting his failedpromise to close the prison. Everyone has forgotten about it.RT: But what about the issue of human rights? Isn’tthat a concern for President Obama?AW: Well it should be of concern. The President claimsthat the legislation passed under Bush, just after the 9/11 attacksauthorizes the detention of prisoners and that therefore it isacceptable for these men to be held. But it isn’t acceptable.These are still men who aren’t held either as prisoners of waraccording to the Geneva Convention or as criminal suspects who aregoing to face a trial. Nearly all of them there in Guantanamo areeffectively still held as enemy combatants. The Bushadministration’s plan was to hold people forever without ever beingto justify objectively why they were being held.RT: The US maintains that intelligence gathered atGuantanamo saved American lives. Isn’t that a strong case forkeeping the prison open?AW: No. I think this is nonsense. The United Statesauthorities have never officially claimed that any more than a fewdozen of the people that they held were people with any connectionto terrorism. There has been no evidence provided that the tortureof prisoners led to any information that actually foiled terroristattacks.What they are left here with is a problem of mostly of detainingpeople either who have been horribly abused throughout their elevenyears in custody. Primarily it is the opposition within Congressand inactivity in the administration to clear up this terrible,terrible mess that was left by the Bush administration.And it is now Obama’s prison. It is very much a place where heis not doing anything about it. The people held there, as I say,the majority of them who are supposed to be released who are stillbeing held. That is a terrible indictment the way President Obamais behaving. And it seems it is down to the prisoners to make theworld aware of this situation.RT: Will media coverage of this case spur President’sObama’s decision?AW: I hope so. What it needs is to be backed up bysustained reporting about this. And then I would hope forrepresentatives of other governments to try and put pressure on theUS. Maybe the home countries of the people who are being held atGuantanamo need to start putting more pressure on him. As it stands, lawyers for the prisoners have been trying and goto the American Commission on Human Rights which does not havepower in the United States, but at least it is a venue where theycan raise these issues, because sadly the US is not answerable toanybody about its behavior. And I think what we’re seeing withGuantanamo is a problem that this is not an American problem thatthey did not want to have to deal with, because there isn’tinternally in the United States enough political capital in it.

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‘Gitmo prisoners feel they are in a living tomb’

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