Guantanamo detainees describe despair 5 years after Obama promised closure
January 22, 2014
Five years after President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay within one year, detainees have described their despair at conditions and their indefinite detention. Recent legislative amendments by Congress removed obstacles to transferring cleared detainees out of the prison.
Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a cleared Syrian, said:
“I am dying every day many, many times. Sometimes because of my illness, and sometimes because of the oppression by the guards here, and sometimes because of the doctors, and sometimes because of the pressure they put on us and because of the length of our unfair imprisonment.
I had wanted to live in peace with my wife and our children and we had planned our future and the future of our children together, but they destroyed our dreams and our plans, they did not let us live…
“Twelve years I have been unable to see my children, not out of choice, but because I was denied the ability to see them, and without reason.”
A recent report by lawyers at the human rights charity Reprieve revealed that 33 men are back on hunger strike and being force-fed twice daily. Authorities have clamped down on information coming out of the prison, including no longer releasing official numbers of hunger strikers because it was furthering the men’s peaceful protest.
Cleared British resident Shaker Aamer, whose British wife and their four children live in London, is one of the men back on hunger strike. He told his lawyer that he: “Lost 25 lbs in a week over Christmas.”
David Cameron has repeatedly stated that he wants Shaker returned home to the UK and he last year raised Mr Aamer’s case with President Obama. Shaker has been cleared for release under both the Bush and Obama administrations yet remains held without charge or trial.
155 men are still held at Guantanamo Bay, despite President Obama signing an Executive Order of January 22nd 2009 to close the prison within a year. More than half the detainees have been cleared for release, a process involving unanimous agreement by six US federal agencies that they pose no threat to the United States. Last year, Guantanamo’s Chief Prosecutor announced that less than 3% of all the men who had been held at the prison would ever be tried.
Recent Congressional amendments to the annually-renewed National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), removed the certification requirement for countries to which detainees can be resettled removing obstacles to Obama transferring cleared men out of the prison.
Clare Algar, Reprieve’s Executive Director, said:
“Five years ago today the detainees were full of hope that finally their nightmare would be over. Yet still they sit in the hell of Guantanamo Bay. President Obama has no excuses left, why is it still open? And why are cleared men like Shaker Aamer still not home with their families where they belong?”
2. For Reprieve’s hunger strike report, please see here.
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