In response to the suicides of inmates at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, US group International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and Racism) issued the following statement.
Three men who had been held at Guantanamo Bay for four years resorted to hanging themselves on June 10. In a shocking but inadvertent admission of the depravity of the Guantanamo authorities, camp commander Rear-Admiral Harry Harris described the suicides "an act of asymmetric warfare against us". He then said the dead inmates "have no regard for life, neither ours or their own".
The three men who killed themselves had previously been hunger strikers and subjected to force-feeding by prison guards. Two were Saudi nationals, Manei al Otaibi and Yasser al Zahrani (who was reportedly 17 when he was taken into custody), and the third was Yemeni national Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al Salami.
Held for years without ever being charged with wrongdoing, without being able to see their families, subject to constant interrogation and torture by the US government and with no end in sight, Guantanamo detainees have increasingly attempted suicide and others have gone on hunger strikes.
The Pentagon made public its approval of the use of force-feeding, another form of torture. According to detainees, those who refuse to eat are strapped down twice a day in specially designed chairs, and tubes are violently inserted through their noses and into their stomachs. The US military personnel force liquids through the tubes. Detainees, many of whom are left vomiting blood, have also reported that US military personnel reuse the unclean tubes on different captives. As a result of this torture regime, the US military as bragged of a significant reduction in hunger strikers.
Former British detainees Shafiq Rasul and his two friends, Rhuhel Ahmed and Asif Iqbal, described how they were held at Guantanamo for more than two years without charge before being released. They told Associated Press that they saw men being beaten and troops throwing Korans in the toilet. They also say they were forced to watch videotapes of prisoners who had allegedly been ordered to sodomise each other and were chained to a hook in the floor while strobe lights flashed and heavy metal music blared.
"There is no hope in Guantanamo. The only thing that goes through your mind day after day is how to get justice or how to kill yourself", Rasul, 29, who waged a hunger strike at the camp to protest alleged beatings, said on June 10. "It is the despair — not the thought of martyrdom — that consumes you there."
The June 12 New York Times editorial condemned the Guantanamo prison and said that it was no surprise that detainees are committing suicide. "It is a place where secret tribunals sit in judgment of men whose identities they barely knew and who were not permitted to see the evidence against them. Inmates were abused, humiliated, tormented and sometimes tortured." Amnesty International has added its weight to calls for an independent investigation into the prison. On June 12, it called on the US government to give five UN experts immediate and unrestricted access to Guantanamo, and to allow private access to the detainees.
On May 19, the United Nations panel investigating conditions at Guantanamo said in a report that the prison must be shut down. The UN panel declared it to be a torture facility and said that unless the detainees are charged and given a fair trial, hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo who are being held indefinitely should be released.
The UN report also called for the closure of secret CIA prisons, and the end of the "extraordinary renditions", the US policy of shipping people to other countries so that they can be more effectively tortured.
[Abridged. Visit <http://www.internationalanswer.org>.]
From Green Left Weekly, June 21 2006.
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