February 14, 2014
The last remaining British prisoner held in Guantanamo Bay has penned a powerful letter to mark Valentine’s Day – the twelfth anniversary of his detention. Shaker Aamer has been held without charge or trial since his arrest in Afghanistan in November 2001. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay on 14 February 2002 where has been held since – despite being cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 and again by the Obama administration in 2009.
Conveying the desperation felt by prisoners at the US military run camp in Cuba, he wrote: “How do I feel with another year of my life gone unjustly and another year started? Truly, I feel numb. I can’t even think about it. Years are passing like months and months like weeks. Weeks pass like days and days like hours. Hours feel like minutes, minutes seconds, and seconds pass like years. And it goes around in a strange circle that makes no sense. It all takes an age, and yet an age of my life seems to pass too fast. On and on and on. Shaker Aamer with two of his children before his arrest Shaker Aamer with two of his children before his arrest
Mr Aamer, who is currently on hunger strike, added: “I feel lonely and lost. Not knowing my future is the worst torture. I am living just to die. I am confused about everything and everyone. It is not enough for them to leave us alone with all this pain we are suffering. It is not enough for us to live only with our memories, which bring more pain.”
He also captured some of the alleged mistreatment and humiliation the 160 current inmates suffer in the prison. He describes how ‘the National Anthem is playing so loudly’ at his time of writing and how a fellow inmate consistently misses his legal call because of the full body search he is threated with by the guards. Shaker Aamer: ‘I may have to die. I hope not. I want to see my family again’
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/last-british-guantanamo-prisoner-pens-powerful-letter-on-twelfth-anniversary-of-detention-9129745.html
January 18, 2014
Kristen Stewart takes a lot of abuse in her latest film, a gritty drama about detainees at Guantanamo Bay. “Camp X-Ray,” which premiered Friday at the Sundance Film Festival to boisterous applause, features Stewart as Amy Cole, a guard stationed at the controversial U.S. prison in Cuba, where suspected terrorists are being detained. Stewart’s character takes an elbow to the face, is spit on and splattered with excrement, but learns her treatment is nothing compared to the detainees.
The movie is sympathetic to the prisoners’ plight; Stewart’s character eventually forms a bond with innocent inmate Ali Amir, played by Peyman Moaadi. In an interview with The Associated Press, Stewart said she relished playing such a strong character.The film originally intended Stewart’s role for a male, but he shifted to a female lead because he felt it created more conflict between the two. “And Muslims’ extremist relationship toward women also complicated (the story),” he said. “So I clicked into that.”
Lane Garrison, who also plays a guard in the movie, told the audience that working on “Camp X-Ray” shifted his thinking of Guantanamo Bay, which has been the center of a battle over whether it should close. President Barack Obama has said he would like to see it shut down. “I had a belief that everyone down there was responsible for 9/11,” said Garrison. “After doing this film I started asking questions about Guantanamo Bay and come to find out that there are still men down there that no country wants and I started thinking ‘What if there is a guy down there that is innocent that’s not a terrorist — does he deserve that day in court? It changed me to start asking questions and not just go along with the flow.”
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/sundance-premiere-camp-x-ray-explores-gitmo-life/2014/01/18/bb060d92-8048-11e3-97d3-b9925ce2c57b_story.html
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court is allowing the U.S. government to continue genital searches of Guantanamo Bay detainees — at least temporarily.
A three-judge panel of the court Wednesday granted the Obama administration’s emergency motion for a temporary delay in enforcing U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth’s order banning the practice.
Detainee lawyers say the searches began after prisoners were told they would have to travel from their resident camp to another site at the base to meet with or talk on the telephone with their lawyers. The lawyers say some detainees had refused to make the trip because of the new searches.
In court papers, the government argued that Lamberth’s order would weaken security at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba by making it harder to prevent smuggling of contraband. And it said that the ruling went where no other court has gone before.
“For the first time to the government’s knowledge, a federal court has restricted a military commander from implementing routine security procedures at a detention facility holding enemy forces, notwithstanding the universally recognized need for the maintenance of discipline and order in those facilities,” the government wrote in its motion with the appeals court.
MIAMI (AP) — Prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay are asking a federal court to halt the practice of force-feeding hunger strikers to keep them alive.
A motion filed in Washington on behalf of four men held at the base in Cuba says the practice violates medical ethics and is inhumane. They say it will also deprive prisoners of the ability to observe the traditional fast for the upcoming Muslim holy period of Ramadan.
Syrian prisoner Jihad Dhiab says he is well aware that he could die if he is not force-fed.
The U.S. says 106 prisoners are on hunger strike as of Monday in a protest over their indefinite confinement. The Miami-based U.S. Southern Command says the military remains committed to feeding prisoners to prevent protest deaths.
The number of hunger strikers being force-fed by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has risen to 41, with the protest showing no signs of abating more than a week after President Obama renewed his commitment to close the detention facility.
The military said in a statement Thursday that 103 detainees are on hunger strike and that 41 of them are being force-fed. The military also said four detainees who are being force-fed are being observed at the hospital.
There are 166 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, a majority of whom are Yemeni nationals. Two years ago, Obama imposed his own moratorium on sending detainees to Yemen because of concerns about security there. But he said he will lift the ban.
Obama also said he will appoint senior envoys at the State and Defense departments to oversee and accelerate the process of moving detainees.
There has been no visible progress on these commitments, but administration officials have cautioned that it will take time to restart the effort to close the facility.
Tensions between detainees and the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have spiked in recent weeks, with a hunger strike at one of the camps reflecting growing despair that the Obama administration has abandoned efforts to repatriate prisoners cleared for release, according to defense lawyers and other people with access to information about detention operations.
A majority of the 166 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay are housed in Camp 6, a facility that until recently held men the military deemed “compliant.” But the camp, where cell doors are left open so detainees can live communally, has been at the center of a series of escalating protests since January.
The lawyers and human rights advocates said there is a mass hunger strike at Camp 6 that is threatening the health and life of a number of detainees. In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, they said they have received “alarming reports” 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.”
A military official said 14 detainees are on hunger strikes and six of them are being force fed. Others have been refusing meals but eating non-perishable food stashed in their cells, officials said.
In a statement, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said “claims of a mass hunger strike . . . are simply untrue.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside organization allowed unrestricted visits to the camps, said it visited Guantanamo from Feb. 18 to 23 and “is aware of the tensions at the detention facility.”
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — The Pentagon has given a partial explanation to a Guantanamo mystery: How the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks managed to dye his beard.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s bushy grey beard has been colored a rusty orange during court appearances. Spectators had assumed he used henna, which is used by some Muslims as a hair dye.
A Pentagon spokesman says Mohammed used “natural means,” such as juice from berries that he receives in his meals. Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said Tuesday that Mohammed did not receive any “outside” means to color his beard.
Mohammed is kept under such heavy security that his lawyers can’t even reveal routine conversations with their client.
He is charged with four other prisoners with aiding and planning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — A weeklong hearing into the legal framework for the Sept. 11 terrorism military tribunal came to an end Friday without a ruling on the most significant motions but progress on some issues that must be resolved before the eventual trial.
After hours of often arcane debate at the U.S. base in Cuba, the military judge presiding over the case deferred most decisions until later. Notable among them were proposed rules for handling classified evidence that prosecutors said are necessary to protect national security and defense lawyers argued are overly broad and restrictive.
Army Col. James Pohl heard arguments on nearly 20 motions and did resolve some matters, including issuing a ruling that the five men charged with planning and aiding the Sept. 11 attacks may sit out their pretrial hearings. While the extent of the progress was in dispute, both the chief prosecutor and defense lawyers agreed the case was unlikely to be ready for trial in 2013.
The five defendants facing charges that include terrorism and murder include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a self-styled terrorist mastermind who grew up in Kuwait and attended college in North Carolina. He condemned the U.S. in a lecture to the court on Wednesday as he wore a camouflage vest that had been approved by the judge.
The judge heard lengthy arguments on a motion from the defense asking the judge to decide that the constitutional rights recognized in civilian criminal trials will apply in the special tribunals for war-time offenses. Prosecutors argued it was too soon to make that determination and the judge deferred a ruling.
Most of the arguments centered on the proposed security rules, including provisions that the defense said will prevent the five prisoners from publicly disclosing what happened to them while detained in secret CIA prisons overseas. The U.S. government says they were subjected to “enhanced interrogation”; critics say it was torture.
Lawyers for the defendants said the proposed rules would prevent them from using what happened in the CIA prisons to challenge statements the men made to authorities or to argue that they shouldn’t get the death penalty. It would also prevent the public from learning details about the harsh interrogations.
Early Saturday morning in a courtroom inside the highly guarded detainee prison at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, five of the alleged top plotters in the Sept. 11 attacks will speak for the first time under a new Obama administration plan to hold them accountable under military tribunals for the worst terrorist strikes in America.
It will be a test for the prisoners, including alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, of whether to plead guilty or not guilty at the arraignment hearing — and whether to use the occasion as a platform to denounce the United States and call for more terrorist attacks around the world.
But in a larger sense the hearing, which kicks off the long-awaited military trial of the so-called Gitmo 5, will be a test of Obama himself, who in 2008 pledged to close the island prison and to try the five defendants in a civilian courtroom setting. He was unsuccessful on both counts. Now, what unfolds in Cuba over the next several months could weigh heavily on the upcoming presidential campaign.
WASHINGTON — It is the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads. Today, it houses far more men convicted in terrorism cases than the shrunken population of the prison in Cuba that has generated so much debate.
An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare.
Among them is Ismail Royer, serving 20 years for helping friends go to an extremist training camp in Pakistan.
In recent weeks, Congress has reignited an old debate, with some arguing that only military justice is appropriate for terrorist suspects. But military tribunals have proved excruciatingly slow and imprisonment at Guantánamo hugely costly — $800,000 per inmate a year, compared with $25,000 in federal prison.
The criminal justice system, meanwhile, has absorbed the surge of terrorism cases since 2001 without calamity, and without the international criticism that Guantánamo has attracted for holding prisoners without trial.