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80% of Guantanamo detainees reportedly in solitary confinement

China National News

Thursday 5th April, 2007

Thursday Britain celebrated the return home of fifteen of its citizens, members of the British Navy, and Royal Marines.

The fifteen had been captured by Iran in what Iran says were Iranian waters, and in which Britain claims were Iraqi waters.

Nonetheless the fifteen British troops seemingly were treated with respect, humanely, and in good conditions. Iran and Britain, despite differences on another front, maintained a diplomatic, mutual respectful, dialogue that achieved a satisfactory outcome, particularly for Britain.

Conversely, on the other side of the world a similar situation has occurred which is completely the opposite to what has occurred with Iran. In this case Britain, seemingly, is looking the other way as a number of its residents have been effectively marooned.

UK resident from Kingston-on Thames, Bisher al-Rawi, has just been released from the US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He is one of at least eight British residents held there for five years as 'enemy combatants.' These men are being held illegally, without charge or trial, and have either been subjected to or are at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.

Now, in a stunning revelation it has been learned 80% of detainees at the US military prison at Guantanamo are being held in solitary confinement, often in harsh and inhumane conditions.

The news has come in a report published on Thursday by Amnesty International. The organization, as a result of its findings has called for an end to the routine use of extended solitary confinement by the US authorities and for independent medical experts to be allowed to examine the prisoners.

Amnesty International has long called for the entire camp to be closed, with plans for unfair 'military commission' trials to be abandoned. Last month the organisation published a 103-page report condemning the military commissions as a 'travesty of justice'.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said Thursday, 'The entire process at Guantanamo is a travesty of justice, but we have particular concerns over the widespread use of solitary confinement in harsh conditions at the camp.'

'With many prisoners already in despair at being held in indefinite detention on a remote island prison, some are dangerously close to full-blown mental and physical breakdown after years of solitary confinement.'

'The US authorities should immediately stop pushing people to the edge with extreme isolation techniques,' said Allen, 'and allow proper access for independent medical experts and human rights groups.'

There are approximately 385 men held at Guantanamo Bay and, after an apparent hardening of US operational detention policy in January, around 300 of these are now being held in three units with minimal contact with other prisoners or even prison guards. These units, known as Camp 5, Camp 6 and Camp Echo, are comparable to so-called 'super-max' high security units in the United States.

Unlike mainland super-max prisoners, however, Guantanamo detainees are held indefinitely as 'enemy combatants', face either no trial at all or an unfair one, have no family visits and no independent expert examinations.

One of the 300 detainees presently held in these conditions is UK resident Shaker Aamer, who has been kept in solitary confinement in Camp Echo for more than a year and a half. He is reportedly confined to a small (six-feet by eight-feet), windowless cell with no natural light or fresh air. He is allowed only minimal opportunity for exercise and, apart from a Quoran, has no possessions.

Mr Aamer, who has formerly acted as a camp negotiator and may be suffering harsh treatment as a consequence, was at one time denied any exercise outside of his cell for at least 64 consecutive days. He has also reportedly suffered beatings and harassment by camp guards, including having his clothes and mattress removed.

The Red Cross, the only independent monitoring organisation allowed to inspect the detention facilities at Guant namo, has described conditions at Camp Echo as 'extremely harsh'. Prisoners are kept in their windowless cells for 23 or 24 hours a day, and, in the absence of any natural light whatsoever, fluorescent lighting is kept on 24 hours a day. Meanwhile, Camp 6 has been described by one detainee as a 'dungeon above the ground'.

Amnesty International's new report is also part of a campaign to convince the UK authorities of the need to immediately press for the fair trial or safe release of at least seven remaining UK residents still held at Guantanamo.

These include 37-year-old old Brighton resident Omar Deghayes, who has been held at the prison camp for over four years after being detained without legal safeguards in Pakistan in 2002, before subsequent rendition to Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

Mr Deghayes, whose family are officially recognised refugees from Libya (having fled persecution under Colonel Gaddafi's regime), alleges that he has been tortured by US guards at Guantanamo. He has also told his lawyer that Libyan intelligence officers have been allowed to interrogate him in the camp, with one official allegedly threatening Mr Deghayes with death if he were ever returned to Libya.

Amnesty International believes that the UK government's refusal to help all of the UK residents is, 'untenable and unacceptable,' and that the UK is duty-bound to assist people resident in the UK, many of whom are refugees and have British nationals as family members.

Censorship in America

By Paul Rieckhoff

High school principal shuts down student play about Iraq war Even after four years of war, the lives of most Americans have gone on unchanged. Most people have never met an Iraq veteran, and far too few have had the chance to ask one of them what it was like to serve in a war zone.

At Wilton High School in Connecticut, students decided to try and bridge this gap between the troops and the public.

Using first-hand accounts from troops in Iraq, they created a series of monologues to perform as the school’s spring play. But the school principal Timothy H. Canty feared the script’s political implications and chose to shut the play down before it was ever performed. This decision was an insult to the students at Wilton High and to all veterans of the war in Iraq.

Principal Canty should allow the show to go on. He should also apologize to Iraq veterans nationwide. He has chosen to squash his students’ freedom of speech—one of the very rights vets like me joined the military to defend.

As Tim O’Brien said in his classic novel about Vietnam, The Things They Carried, ‘’If you don’t care for obscenity, you don’t care for the truth; if you don’t care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty.’’

The truth is sometimes vulgar—especially the truth about war. And any real discussion of the situation in Iraq is going to be controversial. The stories of troops coming home from war will not be pretty or pure, and will rarely be black-and-white enough to align with extremists of any political persuasion. But however ugly and uncomfortable, it is our duty as Americans to understand the truth about the war in Iraq.

Among the ‘objectionable’ sources of the high school students’ script were excerpts from my book, Chasing Ghosts, and the words of my good friend, Sean Huze, an IAVA member who served in Iraq as a Marine Corporal during the initial invasion. Sean is now a successful playwright and the founder of VetStage, a foundation that gives veterans a place to process their war experiences and educate the public about the war. This weekend, Sean’s powerful new play, The Wolf, opened to a star-studded packed house and rave reviews.

As Sean has said, Americans must “pay more attention to what’s being asked of young men and women in uniform. We, as citizens of this country, have a responsibility to be aware of what is going down in our name.” No matter how you feel about the war, veterans like Sean deserve to be heard. That is a lesson Principal Canty could learn from his students.

I urge him and the administration at Wilton High School to correct this situation and let the students perform the play. Sean and I would be honored to attend the performance. And I would also suggest Principal Canty give Sean a call and invite him and the veterans from VetStage to perform his first play, The Sand Storm, at Wilton High as soon as possible. He might learn a thing or two about the war – and about the power of free speech.

GNN contributor Paul Rieckhoff is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Executive Director and Founder of IAVA (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America), the country’s first and largest Iraq Veterans group. IAVA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization headquartered in New York City.

"Vs" stage protest at White House

Sat, 31 Mar 2007 22:25:00

By Wayne Madsen (http://www.waynemadsen.com)

"Vs" stage protest at White House. About 60 protesters dressed up as the Guy Fawkes look-a-like "V," from the movie by the same name, staged a protest at the White House yesterday. In an encouraging sign, a group of elementary school children visiting the White House on a school trip were much more interested in "V" than in the White House or its occupant. The children busied themselves taking photos of the "Vs" and shaking their hands: a clear sign that the Rove/Fox propaganda machine has little effect on those who will be left holding the tab for the recklessness of the "Baby Boomer" generation.

The protest was sponsored by www.givemeliberty.org

One angry woman, an obvious Bush supporter, said that if people protest they should show their faces. When informed that the masks were part of a movie -- the very theme of the protest -- the woman repeated herself about showing faces and then mumbled that she never heard of the movie and didn't care about it. This editor has noticed for several years that those who support George W. Bush appear to suffer all of his afflictions -- including mental retardation.

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