We call for the immediate closure of Guantánamo.
Guantánamo harms our nation every day it stays open, and it continues to serve as a potent symbol for terrorist recruitment. As President Obama explained in a speech in early 2009, “instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantánamo became a symbol that helped al-Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantánamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” That remains true today. Guantánamo also undermines our bedrock commitment to the rule of law, making that fundamental principle less secure for all Americans. We call on the President to honor the principled and pragmatic commitment he made on taking office, and we insist that Congress stop making Guantánamo – and the fate of the men imprisoned there – into a cynical game of political maneuvering - See more at: http://www.closeguantanamo.org/Our-Mission#sthash.vr567AKt.dpuf
Over the weekend, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni, became the ninth prisoner to die in Guantánamo. Adnan had been repeatedly cleared for release -- under President Bush and President Obama, and by a U.S. court -- but had never been freed, like so many others in that disgraceful prison, which remains an insult to the rule of law ten years and eight months since it first opened. - See more at: http://www.closeguantanamo.org/Articles/64-Lawyers-Statement-On-Adnan-Latif-the-Latest-Prisoner-to-Die-at-Guantanamo#sthash.RQ27DqRz.dpuf
Since it was opened on January 11th 2002, 779 prisoners are acknowledged to have been held at Guantánamo Bay. Yet in 2006, after many innocents had already been released, analysis of Pentagon data on 517 prisoners by Seton Hall University found 55% were determined not to have committed any hostile acts against the US or its allies, and only 8% were alleged to have had any kind of affiliation with al-Qaeda.
Why were innocent people transferred to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba for interrogation?
ANSWER: Because Guantánamo was part of an interrogation and detention regime in the ‘War on Terror’ that operated outside of established US and international law.
The Bush administration asserted that Guantánamo Bay, located in Cuba, was beyond the jurisdiction of US law and they invented a new legal term for Guantánamo prisoners - “enemy combatants” – for whom the Geneva Conventions and international human rights law did not apply. Guantánamo Bay really did create a “legal black hole” in close proximity to the US mainland.
ANSWER: Because Guantánamo was set up to procure intelligence often irrespective of guilt.
The US aimed to procure intelligence in a prison where detainees could be interrogated outside of established law. Guilt was, at times, irrelevant. For instance, Briton Jamal al-Harith was rendered to Guantánamo simply because he had been held in a Taliban prison and was thought to have knowledge of their interrogation techniques. Al Jazeera cameraman Sami el Haj was held in the hope that he could provide information on Al Jazeera's news network.
The current Guantanamo hunger strike began on February 6th. More than 140 navy medical workers were recruited to treat the strikers. Some of them were forced to feeding. Murat Kurnaz, former Guantanamo detainee, who had been tortured for more than four years, gave an interview to the Voice of Russia.
The Guantanamo hunger strike has hit 102 out of 166 prisoners. It is the first increase after three weeks while the count was consistent at 100 for a while. The international Red Cross opposes force feeding prisoners who are mentally competent to decide their fate themselves. It is not clear so far if the only Russian prisoner Ravil Mingazov has supported the strike since military officials do not reveal any specific names of those who have.
Let’s now listen to our short report to brief you on the Guantanamo Bay issue.
“In terms of geopolitics the US Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba is probably the oddest of entities in existence. It is the oldest of American plentiful overseas navy bases and the only one located in a communist state, with which the US does not have diplomatic relations. It is currently home 9500 US sailors and marines, as well as several warships. The base also features the only McDonald’s on the Cuban territory.
According to the Cuban-American Treaty of 1903 the US has an indefinite lease of the base providing it pays a yearly rent and does not invade the Republic of Cuba. However, since the Cuban Revolution of 1959 the Government of Cuba has maintained the lease was unlawful, as it was effectively forced upon Cuba in 1903.
Although the US keeps paying rent dutifully only one of checks was cashed after 1959. However, the US Government maintains that cashing the check constituted an official validation of the treaty.
What made debates truly controversial is the establishment in 2002 of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp by the Administration of George W Bush. The base was setup to hold detainees the US Government had determined to be connected with opponents in the global war on terror. Subsequently, most detainees came from Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa, as well as Southeast Asia.
Under the 1903 Treaty the US has, as it is worded in the document, a complete authority over the base. Ultimate sovereignty, however, rests with Cuba. This allowed the US Government to present Guantanamo Bay to the world as a territory with the so-called exceptional sovereignty and claim that international law does not apply at Guantanamo.
Many current and former prisoners have complained of abuse and torture which the Bush Administration denied. In total 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. Although, most of these people have been released without charge the United States Government continues to classify many of them as enemy combatants.
Despite the fact that Pres Obama pledged to close the camp during his first presidential campaign back in 2008, the camp’s closure has been indefinitely delayed,” Luka Petrovsky for the Voice of Russia.
And our guest Murat Kurnaz was held in extrajudicial detention and had been tortured at the US military base in Kandahar in Afghanistan, and in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba for four years.
Murat Kurnaz is a Turkish citizen and a legal resident of Germany, since he was in the process of becoming a German citizen when he was arrested in Pakistan in late 2001.
Mr. Kurnaz, thanks for joining us. First of all, could you describe the conditions in which you were held at Guantanamo?
Yes, of course. I got sold for $2000 bounty to the American Government as a possible terrorist. As soon as they found out that I am innocent and I’ve got cleared by the American Government, they tried to work together with the German Government to let me go back home. But the German Government refused to take me back and I had to stay 4.5 years more at Guantanamo.
But they never stopped the torture because they wanted to force me to sign papers in where I admit that I am a member of Al-Qaeda and Taliban, that I did fight with them together against the American forces. And because, of course, I never did this, I refused to sign those kinds of papers and that’s why they kept torturing me.
So, do you blame the German Government for staying there for so long?
Yes, of course I do because they had the opportunity, they could take me back home to Germany and they didn’t.
And how do you explain why they refused to do so?
Actually, at the beginning they didn’t know what was really going on. But the German Government, they did know that I’m innocent and they just said that we don’t want to take him back with no reason. Even the BND, they interrogated me in Guantanamo and they said that this man is innocent and is not dangerous for Germany, and he could come back home without any problems. Even after that the response from the politician guy in my city, in Frankfurt am Main, was – I don’t want him back.
Let’s get to the hunger strike. How would you explain the reasons for the current hunger strike, why now? Was it any way different one or two years ago or when you were there? Did you see anything like that happen there while you were being held in Guantanamo?
During my time over there I myself did a couple of hunger strikes and it was because of different things, like there were sick people that didn’t get medication and we went for hunger strikes so that these guys could get medication. But today I’m sure they get treated very badly and this would be the first reason why they are on hunger strike. And the real reason is of course – they want a fair trial. No one of these prisoners got a fair trial until today.
If they are guilty they should have the right to go to the court and afterwards to imprisonment for lifelong or whatever. But you can’t keep people in prison without trial and they just want a fair trial. And this is the main reason why they are on hunger strike.
So, do you believe they will reach their goal of fair trial via the strike?
I know that they get force fed by tubes and that means they can get force fed for many months or years. It is very difficult. When I did hunger strikes, at that time it was not hundred days but the week or two. We wanted medication and we did get medication after that hunger strike. But this time it seems like it won’t be the last hunger strike for the most detainees.
How would you actually describe the prisoners of Guantanamo? Or are they primarily? Do they have anything in common except for the fact that they are there? Nationality, beliefs, attitude to America?
When I used to be there, there were 48 different nations and the problem is that nobody of them got a fair trial. And that means there could be people who are guilty but most of them got sought by mistake. I myself had neighbours who used to be just 9 years old or 12 years old children, and I had many neighbours who were 14 year old kids. And they are still today over there and already are 23 years old. And they will not stop the hunger strike until they get what they want.
So, you just said that some of them could be guilty. What is your impression, what percentage of those who are there, are actually criminals and terrorists? And how many of them are innocent people who basically got there by chance?
I’m sure that most of them are, like 90% are innocent because I know that many homeless people, especially in Pakistan, got collected by soldiers, police people and got sold to the American Government as possible terrorists because they will get $3000 bounty and that is a lot of money in Pakistan. And that’s why they just collect homeless people and sell them to the Americans as possible terrorists.
I had some neighbours who used to be from the Taliban and they got released one or two years before I got released. And they are today free men walking free around Europe.
And the American element worked with the Taliban very close together and almost all of the members of Taliban, they got released.