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Gitmo staff treat detainees 'worse than animals' - prisoner's lawyer

Published time: June 01, 2013 14:46
AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan

The hunger strikers at the Guantanamo Bay camp are being subjected to freezing temperatures in their cells and made to choose between shower and sleep, “punished and treated like animals,” a lawyer for a Gitmo detainee told RT.

Anne Richardson’s client was among the first inmates to go on hunger strike, she told RT, adding he is now “skin and bones.”

RT: When did you last see your client? What can you say about his health?

Anne Richardson: I met with my client in early May and it was shocking to see how thin he was and how impossible it was for him to focus. He’s been hunger striking since February 6 and it’s just getting increasingly desperate. He has lost so much weight, he is just skin and bones. It was just terrifying to see him in this condition and not to know what was going to happen to him.

RT: How is he describing his daily routine at Guantanamo? Is he complaining about what’s going on at the prison?

AR: My client has been kept in solitary confinement; many of his items are taken away from him, including attorney-client mail. He was not allowed to have a toothbrush, toothpaste or soap in his cell for many weeks. I don’t know even if he’s gotten them to this day. They have made conditions at times freezing cold for them in the cells. They are requiring that they submit to very humiliating searches of their genital area in order to meet with their attorneys or talk with them on the telephone. It is just humiliating. It’s been difficult for them to sleep at night. They are sometimes taken to their showers in the middle of the night, so they have to decide between sleep and getting a little bit of cleanliness. It’s just been very punitive.

RT: What are the detainees’ sentiments as their hunger strike has been going on for four months?

AR: The detainees are really attempting to have treatment be restored to them as human beings, rather than being punished and treated like animals. I have had my client tell me many times: “They treat animals better than they treat detainees.” They want to be heard, they want to be treated with respect again, and those of them who have been force-fed do not want to have that treatment continue. The detainees are very united in their concern that Obama not forget his promise to close Guantanamo and to treat them fairly. It has been more than five years now that Obama first said that he was going to close the prison and it is still not going anywhere since that time. I don’t think until detainees start being transferred will we see the hunger strike end.

RT: Do you think the hunger strike might turn deadly in the end?

AR: Most of the men there really are not suicidal. But they have been driven to this sign of desperation by the fact that there is nobody listening to them, nobody is forcing the administration to follow up on its promise.

RT: What effort do you undertake to help the inmates at Guantanamo? When do you think the hunger strike might end?

AR: The government has refused to speak with those of us who represent the prisoners, they have refused to loosen any of their tight restrictions on the prisoners and, as you know from Obama’s speech, he has made very pretty promises, but he has yet to follow up with any action. We know that if the government would simply speak with the men, treat them fairly, would turn their policies to the way they had been operating before this recent crackdown, and if they started to transfer those men who have been cleared, they could end this hunger strike right now. At this point we are trying to get the word to the rest of the world, so that they understand that all of the people who are still in Guantanamo are human beings. Many of them have been cleared by the United States government of any misconduct and the rest deserve a trial or to be released.