Guantánamo prisoner speaks, as the hunger strike grinds on
In our most recent article, "Guantánamo Hunger Striker Abu Wa’el Dhiab: 'The Mistreatment Now is More Severe than During Bush
,'" we made available the words of Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Syrian prisoner. Mr. Dhiab is one of 86 prisoners cleared for release
from Guantánamo three and a half years ago, but who are still held because it has proven politically inconvenient for President Obama to release them, and he is one of the majority of the 166 men still held who have been on a hunger strike since February, protesting about their indefinite detention.
Since the holy month of Ramadan began last week, some of the hunger strikers have apparently stopped their hunger strike, leading several media outlets to publish articles suggesting that the strike may be over -- or, at least, coming to an end. The facts do not support this conclusion, however. Although as many as 25 prisoners are no longer regarded as hunger strikers, because the authorities have allowed them to resume living communally, if they agree not to take part in the hunger strike, the key element to look at it is the number of prisoners being force-fed.
The number of prisoners being force-fed has actually gone up in the last week -- from 45 to 46, and it is these men, like Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian, whose words we also published here recently
, who demonstrate the gravest problems with the ongoing existence of Guantánamo -- and highlight the failure of President Obama to follow up on his fine words on May 23, in a major speech on national security issues, when he promised to resume releasing prisoners
In the introduction to Abe Wa'el Dhiab's words, Andy Worthington also wrote about the recent motion -- submitted by Mr. Dhiab, Mr. Belbacha, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and Nabil Hadjarab, another Algerian -- asking a District Court judge in Washington D.C. to order the government to stop the force-feeding. Judge Gladys Kessler was unable to do so, because of a precedent in the D.C. Circuit Court (the court of appeals), but she delivered a powerful condemnation of force-feeding, and told President Obama that he had the authority and the power to deal with the hunger strike as Commander in Chief.
Judge Kessler was dealing with the motion submitted by Mr. Dhiab, as this email newsletter was being prepared, Judge Rosemary Collyer had just turned down the motion submitted by the other three men. That was to be expected, but it leaves the men in the same legal black hole as before, dependent on an unwilling President to spend political capital to address the hunger strike in the only way that will make any real and lasting difference -- by releasing the 86 men cleared for release but still held, and initiating urgent and objective reviews in the cases of the majority of the other 80 men, most of whom will never be given a trial.
It is depressing to have to keep repeating the same mantra without any resulting action from the President, but it remains painfully true that the existence of Guantánamo is a permanent stain of America's belief in itself as a country ruled by law, and it needs to be closed. Only a few dozen of those held can genuinely be alleged to have constituted a serious threat to the US, and they should be tried; the rest need to be freed.
With thanks, as ever, for your support,
The "Close Guantánamo" team
P.S. Please, if you will, ask your friends and family to 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.