New York, NY – Today, as a federal judge in Washington heard arguments related to the court’s ability to intervene in the growing hunger strike at Guantanamo and, among other requests, order the government to provide clean drinking water to the men, attorneys responded to the violent crack-down at the base over the weekend. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei released the following statement:
Rather than deal with the reasons for the hunger strike – the immediate trigger of the searching of Qurans and the long-term desperation caused by more than 11 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial – the government responded over the weekend by escalating violence and retaliation. Rounding up the men in pre-dawn raids and forcing them into single cells is consistent with other tactics the government is using to pressure men to break the strike as well as to stem the flow of information out of the prison. If the men are kept from one another, they cannot report on the situation as a whole to their attorneys and the only means available to tell their side of the story is cut off.
I spoke with my client, Ghaleb Al-Bihani, one of the men on hunger strike, on Friday. When we met at Guantanamo last week, he had lost over 40 pounds and was visibly weak. On the phone, he sounded muted. He told me that he had been forcibly moved from Camp 6, the communal camp where he had been held for years, to Camp 5, a solitary confinement facility, a few days before. He said it was worse in Camp 5 “because of the MPs.” The “MPs” – military police – are the guards used to maintain “order” in the camps, including by forcibly, physically extracting hunger strikers from their cells for force-feeding.
When I asked Ghaleb why he had been forcibly moved, he said it was because he had spoken out about conditions in the camps. The week before, he had given me a declaration to use in the case of another man, Musa’ab Al Madhwani, who has filed an emergency motion about the withholding of clean drinking water from hunger strikers. A federal court in Washington is hearing arguments in that case today.
The forced move, my client said, was because “I spoke to you about Musa’ab’s problem.” He has stayed in his cell since to avoid confrontation with the MPs. He said he didn’t feel comfortable telling me more about the situation in the camps over the phone. He is worried about retaliation.
Instead of pre-dawn raids, violence, brutal force-feeding and withholding safe drinking water, the administration should direct its energy to closing the prison by appointing an official to lead the effort forward and releasing the men it never intends to charge, beginning with the 86 men the administration has itself approved for transfer. There is no more time to waste by pointing fingers and laying blame. President Obama can and should act on his promise to close the prison and finally turn the page on this dark chapter of history.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last 11 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that nearly all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts. In addition, CCR has been working through diplomatic channels to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.