Guantanamo prison must be closed

Guantanamo prison must be closed

Mohammed Jawad was just released from the United States’ Guantanamo prison and sent home to his native Afghanistan. How old is this fearsome terrorist, who has been imprisoned for seven years without charges or trial? Nineteen years old.

That’s right. I’m sure you can do the math. Mohammed Jawad has been illegally imprisoned at Guantanamo since he was twelve years old.

It’s hard to know what to say about this. This is the nation that claims to be a leader of the free world, and whose constitution guarantees a fair and speedy trial to its citizens? Are non-citizens subhuman, then?

Shouldn’t all human beings be accorded certain fundamantal rights, regardless of nationality or religion? Shouldn’t the right against arbitrary imprisonment be one of them? And shouldn’t children be treated with extra care and protected from harm? Aren’t these fundamental principles of human decency?

Mohammed was accused of injuring two US soldiers and their interpreter by throwing a grenade at their vehicle. However, much of the case against him had been ruled inadmissible by a US military judge in 2008.

Mr Jawad’s release was ordered last month by US District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle, who described the US government’s case against him as “an outrage” that was “riddled with holes”.

What Future Awaits Mohammed?

During a time when he should have been in school studying reading and writing, mathematics and science; or playing football, or learning to play an instrument, or learning a trade and helping to support his family; he has instead been imprisoned under cruel and inhumane conditions, held in a cell 22 hours a day, and barred access to his family. Not only has his childhood been stolen, it has been replaced with a nightmare.

Now he has been returned to a nation that is unsafe and politically unstable. What future awaits him? What help will he get for the psychological trauma he has experienced? How will he make up for the time he has lost? Has he been given any compensation? (No). Will he receive any assistance, any professional guidance, or even a simple apology? (No).

Guantanamo prisoners blindfolded, bound and forced to kneel

Guantanamo prisoners blindfolded, bound and forced to kneel

Harsh Conditions and Torture at Guantanamo

And the outrage continues. 254 prisoners, almost all Muslim, continue to be held at Guantanamo prison in cruel and inhumane conditions. In addition to the harsh everyday conditions of their confinement (small cells with no natural light, no educational opportunities, no family contact), many prisoners have been systematically tortured.

An FBI report released in 2007 as part of a lawsuit involving the ACLU revealed that captives at Guantánamo Bay were chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor for 18 hours or more, urinating and defecating on themselves.

Besides being shackled to the floor, detainees were subjected to extremes of temperature. One witness said he saw a barefoot detainee shaking with cold because the air conditioning had bought the temperature close to freezing.

On another occasion, the air conditioning was off in an unventilated room, making the temperature over 38C (100F) and a detainee lay almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been pulling out his hair throughout the night.

On another occasion, an agent was asked by a “civilian contractor” to come and see something.

“There was an unknown bearded longhaired d (detainee) gagged w/duct tape that had covered much of his head,” the FBI document said.

When the FBI officer asked if the detainee had spit at interrogators, the “contractor laughingly replied that d had been chanting the Qur’an non-stop. No answer how they planned to remove the duct tape,” the report said.

Omar Khadr, a youth detained at Guantanamo prison
Omar Khadr, a youth detained at Guantanamo prison

Three British Muslim prisoners, known in the media as the “Tipton Three”, who were released in 2004 without charge, alleged ongoing torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging and religious persecution.

Omar Deghayes alleges he was blinded by pepper spray during his detention. Juma Al Dossary claims he was interrogated hundreds of times, beaten, tortured with broken glass, barbed wire, burning cigarettes, and sexual assaults.

There is much more. Defacement and abuse of the Quran has been a frequent tactic. As a result of all this, there have been four suicides and hundreds of suicide attempts by prisoners. Many are reported to be suffering from severe psychological stress to the point of losing their sanity.

In 2008 a video was released of an interrogation between Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer and Omar Khadr, in which Khadr repeatedly cries, saying what sounds to be either “help me”, “kill me” or calling for his mother, in Arabic.

Khadr is another youth held in Guantanamo, a Canadian citizen and formerly an alleged child soldier who at the time of his capture in Afghanistan was blinded in one eye by shrapnel, then shot in the back twice by American soldiers as he kneeled. Charges against him have been dropped three times, and the Canadian government has failed to request his extradition in spite of a ruling by the Federal Court of Canada that the government must do so.

President Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo prison by 2010. We’ll see. So far it does not look promising. Human rights organizations have demanded its closure for years with no result. However, positive changes in the treatment of prisoners have been made in response to media attention and the demands of human rights organizations. Please add your voice to the weight of pressure demanding better treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.

Please take action on this matter:

Click here to demand that Admiral David M. Thomas improve conditions at Guantanamo.