Guantanamo Defense Lawyer Says White House Action Can End Detainee Hunger Strike and Close the Controversial Prison Camp

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Posted May 15, 2013

Interview with Carlos Warner, assistant federal defense lawyer for 11 Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release, conducted by Scott Harris

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There are growing protests by human rights groups in response to the four monthlong hunger strike conducted by the majority of 166 detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Detention Camp in Cuba, where an unknown number of prisoners are being subjected to force-feeding. According to a 30-page military manual used at Guantanamo, hunger striking detainees are shackled to a chair where a tube is inserted into their noses and down to their stomachs for up to two hours at a time. The American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and other groups, who have labeled the force-feeding process as inherently “cruel, inhuman and degrading” and a violation of the Geneva conventions, have called on U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to halt the practice.

In a related development, attorney Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the U.K.-based human rights group Reprieve, who represents several Guantanamo detainees, has complained in a letter to British Foreign Secretary William Hague that hunger strikers are being threatened with body cavity searches before they can meet their legal representatives.

When President Obama was asked at an April 30 press conference about the hunger strike that now involves up to 130 detainees, he stated his administration is renewing efforts to work with Congress to shut Guantanamo down. Eighty-six detainees at Guantanamo have been cleared for release by the U.S. government, but remain imprisoned with little hope that they’ll be freed anytime soon. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Carlos Warner, an assistant federal defender representing 11 men held at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, who has traveled to Guantanamo to meet with his clients more than 30 times and has been to the base twice since the hunger strike began on Feb. 6. Here, he challenges President Obama’s inaction in releasing cleared detainees and closing the U.S.–run prison in Cuba that he pledged to do when running for the White House in 2008.

Follow Carlos Warner on Twitter at @Carlos_Warner. For more perspectives on the Guantanamo hunger strike and prospects for the prison’s closure, visit the ACLU's site on the Guantanamo prisoners in detention at www.aclu.org/close-guantanamo and www.aclu.org/national-security/detention.

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