Monday, May 20, 2013

Guantanamo Nightmare

There are still 166 prisoners at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Of these, US authorities have cleared 86 for release, some in 2009 under President Obama, and others as early as 2004 under President Bush. The US government never charged these any of these 86 with crimes of terrorism or violence. Yet, they remain in Guantanamo because of our complete disregard for their basic legal and human rights. In addition, an executive order issued by President Obama two years ago, designated 46 other prisoners for indefinite detention without charge or trial. These 46 men were deemed too dangerous to release, even though not enough evidence exists to put them on trial. This is the same President Obama, a constitutional scholar, who promised to close Guantanamo more than four years ago.

More than 100 of these men are on a hunger strike, which began on February 6, in non-violent protest of worsening prison conditions, mistreatment of prisoners, religious provocations (alleged desecration of Qur’ans), and the reality that after 11 years of suffering in indefinite detention there is no end in sight. More than 29 of these prisoners are being force-fed, and 5 have been hospitalized. In a letter to the US Secretary of Defense, 20 organizations, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the NYU School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic, protested that the force-feeding of competent prisoners constitutes “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.” Force-feeding violates the Geneva Conventions.

On May 17, as part of a national day of solidarity, 14 of your neighbors gathered on the Woodstock Village Green to protest the treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo and to say, “No, not in our name.” Some of us are fasting in solidarity with them.

To what depths has our country fallen? Can we justify anything because of our fears? Do we know no bounds? Can we know about this and not be culpable? What responsibility do we have as human beings?

Please call the White House, 202-456-1111; Department of Defense, 703-571-3343; and your US representatives and senators to express your concerns about the hunger strikers, to demand freedom for those the US authorities have already cleared for release, to bring all other prisoners to speedy trials, and to insist on the closing of Guantanamo.

Nic Abramson