You would hardly know it from watching the news or reading the papers, but there’s a two-month-old hunger strike going on at Guantánamo Bay. After more than three years of internment without charges or trials, approximately forty detainees are striking for the right to a fair hearing before a judge.
The Pentagon is in denial about its violations of the Geneva Accords; the mainstream media are oblivious. As Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) staff attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez says, “It is astounding that men in US custody are willing to engage in a hunger strike until they are afforded a fair hearing or they die of starvation.” But it’s happening with no one paying all that much attention–except in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, where, as Clive Stafford Smith explaines in the Nation magazine, any US claim to be the standard-bearer of the rule of law has dissolved.
It’s so bad even Thomas Friedman has called for closing the prisoners’ camp. But Friedman’s column last summer aside, this hunger strike really does seem to be the story America doesn’t care about. And the Gitmo authorities, mindful of the bad publicity a detainee death by starvation would cause, are apparently force-feeding the hunger strikers to make sure we don’t see a Muslim Bobby Sands.
CCR has been out in front in opposing the Bush Administration’s extra-Constitutional detentions at Guantánamo, having released fact-finding reports and argued before federal courts on behalf of judicial rights for the detainees. The venerable lefty legal outfit has also put up an outstanding Guantánamo Action Center–a terrific site featuring resources and organizing tools that can help break the silence.
Amnesty International has also been a strong and vocal opponent of the Bush Administration’s detainee policy, which has put hundreds of people of at least 35 different nationalities “in a legal black hole, many without access to any court, legal counsel or family visits,” according to an AI report released last May which also famously called Guantánamo “America’s gulag.”
“As evidence of torture and widespread cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment mounts,” the report rightly insisted, “it is more urgent than ever that the US Government bring the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and any other facilities it is operating outside the USA into full compliance with international law and standards. The only alternative is to close them down,” which is precisely what many grassroots groups along with people like John McCain have demanded. AI also offers an easy way to write the White House. Click here to demand that Guantánamo detainees receive their legal rights and let them know people are watching.
Before the current round of prisoners, 300 Haitians were detained at Guantánamo Bay. “Their story should have taught the US that Guantánamo is both bad policy and bad law.” Read Yale University law professor and human-rights expert Harold Koh’s new essay, originally published on openDemocracy.net.