An interview with Carlos Warner of the federal public defender’s office in the Northern US District of Ohio, which represents 11 of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay Prison
The idea that as innocents, we are free, would seem a logical moral conclusion to any discussion around justice. It would also seem an abhorrence that a modern democratic country would act against this principle.
At Guantánamo Bay Prison (Cuba), the United States government has done just that. As part of an ongoing “war on terror” they have subjected hundreds of men to some of the most extreme forms of mistreatment seen in the modern world. There is little doubt that some of those who were rendered to Guantánamo were connected to acts of terrorism or combat activities, but the vast majority were not. The (roughly) 166 who remain are predominantly innocent men- many of whom have been declared innocent by the US government, but who are now approaching the 12th year of their detention- without trial, and with practically zero hope of release within their lifetimes.
Faced with this fact, and under deteriorating conditions- the majority of inmates have begun the largest hunger strike in Guantánamo history. In April 2013, the New York Times carried the astonishing testimony of Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel who is one of the prisoners on hunger strike “One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago… I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity. I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial. I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here“. He continues, “Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray… I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone“. Another inmate Fayiz al-Kandari describes how “…they won’t try us. They won’t let us live in peace, and they won’t let us die in peace“.
The situation at Guantánamo is a complex balancing act of national security, foreign policy, politics and law. To learn more I spoke to Carlos Warner of the federal public defender’s office in the Northern US District of Ohio, which represents 11 of the detainees.