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‘Guantanamo hunger strike is prisoners’ only way to reclaim dignity’

Published time: March 13, 2013 06:25

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (AFP Photo / John Moore)

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The detainee hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay’s maximum-security prison is a last-resort cry for help from those who have spent years in custody without being charged, and who have no hope of release, anti-war activist Sara Flounders told RT.

Most of the 130 terror suspects imprisoned in Camp 6 of Guantanamo Bay may be involved in a hunger strike that started in early March. The protest allegedly started after prison administrators confiscated inmates' personal belongings, including Korans – the overwhelming majority of Guantanamo detainees are devout Muslims from the Middle East.

RT: If the abuse the inmates are describing is true, surely there must have been a reason? Perhaps repeated transgressions? What do you think?

Sara Flounders: Certainly, it is not a valid theory. The treatment in Guantanamo from the very first moment that the prisoners were kidnapped from the other side of the world and brought to Guantanamo has been horrendous.  And it is the organizations such as the Center for Constitutional Rights who have fought for the most elementary rights for these prisoners. And their hunger strikes are the only way of even making themselves heard over years and years without any hope of release, without any real charges.

It was a Center for Constitutional Rights study that took the government figures to confirm that 92 percent of all the prisoners held in Guantanamo really had no connection at all to Al-Qaeda. They were sort of bought and sold and brought to Guantanamo as part of the US war on terror, justified as part of that war and with no real standing.

And they are really just part of the thousands of prisoners held around the world in US secret prisons or in prison ships, secret bases. It is an enormous problem and they are also a part of the hundreds of Muslim prisoners in the US, who have been held, who have been framed on charges, who are held in solitary confinement and special management units.

RT: Why is it only Guantanamo that is talked about when this comes out?

SF: The US’s own publicity, that somehow this US base but off the US mainland gave them complete control and out of the hands of US courts. So its very existence was a challenge and this is where they claimed they were bringing high profile prisoners. But as I say 92 percent of them, I don’t know what kind of a failure rate is that, for those with no charges, and even those with whom they made specific charges, they’ve used all manners of torture, of waterboarding, of isolation and so on again and again. This really is really in every aspect a crime.

AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

RT: Is it that nobody there deserves to be there?

SF: The real question is US treatment. No one in the world deserves this form of US treatment which has become absolutely routine and systematic. That is the use of torture, the use of isolation, humiliation, degradation, religious insult - all of this.

RT: So why is it allowed to continue? I’m sure a lot of the American public know about it, don’t they?

SF: Well, it is allowed to continue, despite every promise, including promises by the Obama administration that the first thing he would do, and this was four years ago, was to shut down Guantanamo and of course he did not, because there is a big, big interest at stake in this lie, that has now been extended into the NDAA and an attack on the rights of everyone in the US and people around the world. It extended those who a decade ago were kidnapped and put into prisons.

Today they simply fire a drone at them and assassinate whole villages. So this is a big extension on attacks on everyone’s rights, dignity. And it is important that these prisoners are resisting with the only measure, the only thing that they can do is to not eat food in order to attract attention to the grievous conditions and the insults that they are routinely given.  

RT: But where is it going to get them? This is not their first hunger strike.

SF: Prisoners around the world, and this is true in the Palestinian struggle, the Irish struggle, the struggle in South Africa and hear in the US know, that a hunger strike, at least maybe a way of reclaiming dignity, of showing resistance in the face of overwhelming power and that is why, I think, these prisoners have chosen the same tactic. What else? They have no other weapon but their own body.

RT: Do you agree with the argument that advocates the existence of Guantanamo and that it saves American lives?

SF: No. It is a complete fraud. Because any of the information gained through torture and isolation- what kind of information is that? These people are held for years and years. And it is an outrage. Guantanamo should be shut down, absolutely, and the thousands held in secret prisons released - there has to be an account for that.

RT: When do you think it is going to close?

SF: It has to close. And I think the work a number of courageous and determined lawyers have done has been exemplary in challenging this policy, but it also needs to be a much larger challenge, here in the US and around the world, demanding an end to these policies of torture.

AFP Photo / John Moore