"Maybe it is because I am German that I am personally very concerned about the Guantanamo issue where the US government is neglecting basic human rights and basic regulations of international law. First of all, like most Germans, I will never forget the fact that the US was a major force in freeing my country from a barbarian dictatorship and afterwards in establishing a civil and democratic society as a mature element of it. This generates a strong feeling of friendship and gratefulness. And it also generates a great level of pain when one watches one's friend moving in the wrong direction; becoming a state that uses torture and commits crime of war according to a recent UN report. Secondly, as a German, one is sensitized by one's own history to situations where a government starts to shift towards a dangerous direction. I therefore view it as my responsibility to alert others and raise my voice on this issue that puts shame on the leading power of the Western world."
Dieter Fensel, Director of STI Innsbruck
The United States has been holding prisoners from its Global War on Terror at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba without accepting them as prisoners of war or acknowledging that the Geneva Conventions apply to them.
The treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has been harshly criticized in a UN report (E.CN.4.2006.120) and in statements by prisoners who have been released.
Numerous prisoners have gone on hunger strike [USA Today, commondreams.org] with the US resorting to force feeding in violation of Guidelines for Medical Doctors concerning Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in relation to Detention and Imprisonment.
One DERI researcher in Ireland wrote the following letter in response to the situation:
"This weekend i viewed an exhibit on Irish hunger strikers at Galway's City Hall Theatre, which covered hunger strikers against British misrule starting in the 19th century up to the 11 prisoners who died in the Belfast "H- Block" twenty-five years ago for the right to be treated as political prisoners.
The Irish hunger strikers won a lot for their cause because people outside the prison used the strikes as an educational and organizational tool and because the coverage went world-wide as the hunger strikers paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The exhibit reminded me of the over a hundred hunger strikers in Guantanamo Bay last year. They are also striking for recognition of their status as prisoners of war. They demand to be treated in accordance with international law. If they won't be accepted as POW's they at least demand the right to be tried by courts for violating specific laws. They haven't even been charged.
Some of these prisoners are jailed for opposing an invading and occupying army. Others, arrested in other countries, say they do not know why they are imprisoned.
The US government took two lessons from the result of the H-Block strikers twenty-five years ago: keep the protest out of the media and don't let the hunger strikers die.
The US military has been force-feeding the hunger strikers by forcibly restraining the prisoners and shoving feeding tubes down their noses and into their stomachs. It has been frequently reported that a tube withdrawn from one prisoner's stomach has been forced into the next prisoner's nose without even a cursory cleaning. A new chair for restraining all parts of a prisoner's body has recently been installed, so the prisoner no longer struggles against 6 burly soldiers when this harsh treatment is inflicted.
The force-feeding has been so harsh and painful, that all but four of the prisoners have stopped their hunger strikes after six months of hunger striking.
Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, has called for the closing of the Guantanamo prison camps after receiving a report from a UN body on the harsh conditions there. The Cuban government has noted that the US has gone far beyond the rights granted it in the treaty on the Guantanamo base to use it only as a coaling station.
Those who honour the hunger strikers of a quarter century ago, should also honour and publicize the cases of the hunger strikers of last year and who are demanding that their status be clarified and that international law be followed."
Douglas Foxvog, 2 March 2006
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