Guantanamo Hunger Strike/Vigil

May 16, 2013


For Immediate Release:             Contact: Dan Shea

Thursday, May 16, 2013            503-750-7649

Guantanamo Hunger Strike/Vigil
Begins Today at 3:00 PM in front of Portland City Hall

(Look for a large colorful banner and people wearing prison-style orange jumpsuits.)

Seventy-one-year-old S. Brian Willson, a Viet Nam veteran member of Veterans For Peace, Portland Chapter 72, beginning Sunday, May 12 reduced his food intake by more than 85 percent, fasting on 300 calories a day in solidarity with the 130 uncharged Guantanamo prisoner hunger strikers now in deteriorating health, many of whom are being force-fed. Willson, a trained lawyer and criminologist, anti-war activist and author, lives by the mantra: “We are not worth more; They are not worth less.” He joins 65-year-old grandmother Diane Wilson, a fifth-generation Texas shrimper, anti-war activist and author, who began an open-ended, water-only fast on May 1 outside the White House, and intends to fast until the prisoners are freed. There are more than 1,200 people around the country participating in a rolling hunger strike to bring attention to the plight of the fasting prisoners at Guantanamo, who have been illegally detained for over ten years with little recourse. May 16 is the 100th day of the hunger strike. The hunger strike/fast demands President Obama take immediate action to close the prison and release the prisoners.

Colonel Morris Davis, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and one-time Chief Prosecutor for the terrorism trials at Guantanamo, has collected 200,000 signatures to be submitted to the White House, appealing to President Obama to close the Medieval detention center.*

A total 166 prisoners from 25 countries remain housed in the U.S.-constructed and operated gulag (2002) at Guantanamo, located on Cuban soil without Cuba’s permission. Most have been jailed and tortured for eleven years without charges, without trials, with no contact with families, and only limited legal counsel when lawyers persist to overcome military obstruction. Although the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, its maltreatment of these detainees openly violates international laws and its own Constitution.

Currently as many as 130 of the prisoners are on a hunger strike in protest of their medieval conditions. Stripped of their dignity, their bodies are the only place where they retain some control, yet even this is taken away as their U.S. captors have induced force-feeding to keep them alive in their misery. The American Medical Association and the World Medical Association both declared that force-feeding of competent patients/prisoners is in violation of international law.

These prisoners’ names and home countries are now identified. Eighty-six of them were cleared for release several years ago, yet remain incarcerated. Fifty-six of these are from Yemen and President Obama has imposed a ban on releasing them. President Obama could use his bully leverage to close Guantanamo and release all the prisoners, despite his blaming Congress. U.S. Professor of Law Marjorie Cohn describes forced feeding as follows: “They strap you to a chair, tie up your wrists, your legs, your forehead and tightly around the waist,” Fayiz Al-Kandari told his lawyer, Lt. Col. Barry Wingard. Al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti held at Guantanamo for 11 years, has never been charged with a crime. “The tube makes his eyes water excessively and blood begins to trickle from the nose. Once the tube passes his throat the gag reflex kicks in. Warm liquid is poured into the body for 45 minutes to two hours. He feels like his body is going to convulse and often vomits,” Wingard added. [“Death is Preferable to Life at Obama’s Guantanamo,” Global Research, news site of Centre for Research on Globalization, May 10, 2013.] 

The larger context: Of the 2,300,000 prisoners warehoused in 9,000 U.S. jails and prisons, nearly 1,400,000 are racial and ethnic minorities. As many as 80,000 are held in solitary confinement. More than 30,000 immigrants are languishing in indefinite detention. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture has concluded that physical isolation of 22-24 hours one day or longer for young people constitutes cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. Force-feeding is not unique to Guantanamo; some U.S. prisoners are routinely and systematically force-fed. The U.S. possesses but 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, owning the highest per capita detention rate of any country in the world.




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