Apr. 11, 2013 (TSR) – FOR close to two months, dozens of detainees in the Guantánamo military prison have been on hunger strike in protest over the confiscation of their letters, photographs and legal correspondence, as well as the desecration of their Korans during cell searches.
Apart from these initial motivations, there are signs that the protest has now become a generalized rebellion in the prison, as suggested a statement from Saudi prisoner Shaker Aamer, made public by his lawyer, affirming that 130 of the 166 inmates have joined the hunger strike. Prison authorities have stated that only 39 people are involved in the protest.
Beyond the figures, the Guantánamo hunger strike is indicative of the degree of despair of those detained in this prison, in an unquestionable breach of legality. Occupied by the United States for more than a century, as part of an outdated colonial agreement, the detention camp is one of the many points of tension between the U.S. and Cuban governments.
The enclave has acquired international notoriety as an example – in conjunction with Abu Ghraib, Bagram and CIA secret flights of persons suspected of terrorism – of the criminal network established by the White House in many countries to kidnap, disappear, torture and murder alleged members of Al Qaeda and other Islamist groups, or others from the Arab and Muslim world who, according to Washington, represent some sort of threat.
On top of that, the detainees have had to endure extremely cruel treatment, the negation of virtually all their human rights and have essentially become invisible before the law. They have not been accused of any crime which would require a trial, but neither have they been acknowledged as belonging to an enemy force, which would have guaranteed them recognition and rights reserved for prisoners of war.
Constant international condemnation of this and other actions on the part of the U.S. government since George W. Bush’s presidency was utilized by Barack Obama during his first presidential election campaign, and his promise to shut down Guantánamo within the first year of his mandate was one of the central points of his agenda for change.
However, once in the White House, and before the established time limit, Obama succumbed to pressure and the power of the U.S. industrial-military complex – which survived the defeat of the Republicans in the 2008 presidential election – and the closure of Guantánamo was indefinitely postponed.
More than a decade after being established as a detention center for suspected terrorists, Guantánamo prison is the most unequivocal sign of the failure of the U.S. President’s aspirations and promises of change. In fact, given that Obama has been unable to fulfill a measure of evident need, and which has consensus among public opinion at home and abroad, it is going to be very difficult for him, in his next four years in the White House, to bring about the rest of the changes his country so urgently requires.
During this time, the international community has participated in Washington’s moral degradation, in that it has continued to tolerate the atrocious practices and inhumane treatment taking place in Guantánamo, and has contributed to this concentration camp currently representing a flagrant symbol of injustice, inequality and shame for humanity.
First published in La Jornada/Granma.