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Tapes could prove inhuman treatment at Guantanamo, says detainee's lawyer

October 10th, 2014
11:14 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Tapes that show the force-feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo bay will show the world that it is “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” a lawyer for one of the prisoners told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.

“Doing it day after day, to people who are suffering a great deal of pain, it can rise to the level of torture, I think,” Cori Crider said.

Her client, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, was cleared for release from the prison camp in 2009 but is yet to be freed, among a morass of toxic bureaucracy and politics.

To protest his imprisonment and treatment, he and several other prisoners are on long-term hunger-strike; the U.S. military forcibly feeds them, with a tube inserted through the nose into the stomach, twice a day.

Crider and the human rights group Reprieve successfully sued the government to release the videos, and a federal judge on Thursday said that the military has until October 17 to redact the videos for release to the public.

“The American people and the rest of the world should be permitted to watch the tapes, see the truth, and decide for themselves,” she said.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Guantanamo • Latest Episode

First Guantanamo commander calls for prison to be closed

December 17th, 2013
03:37 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The man who opened up the Guantanamo Bay Prison now says he wants to see the facility closed.

U.S. Major General Michael Lehnert (retired), first commander of the Guantanamo Bay Prison, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that terrorists were “successful” in changing America.

“The objective of terrorism is to change the nature of their adversary,” he said. “And I would opine that they've been successful. They've changed the way we've acted, they've caused us to walk away from the Constitution, and they've caused us to act as if we were afraid.”

Closing Guantanamo Bay was President Barack Obama’s signature promise during the 2008 campaign; he even signed an executive order to that effect.

But it never happened.

About 160 prisoners remain trapped without charge in Guantanamo's legal limbo, even though 82 have been cleared for transfer to their home country.

Following a hunger strike this year by more than 100 prisoners, President Obama again kicked this issue into high gear.

And even Congress is for the first time voting to loosen some restrictions on transferring prisoners.

“It looks right now that we have probably our best chance in a decade to close Guantanamo,” Lehnert said.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Guantanamo • Latest Episode

Rapper experiences forced feeding

July 10th, 2013
12:31 PM ET

CNN's Christiane Amanpour looks at how rapper Mos Def experienced a Guantanamo-style forced feeding.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Guantanamo • Latest Episode

Former Guantanamo prisoner befriends jailers

May 16th, 2013
05:09 PM ET

By Mick Krever & Juliet Fuisz, CNN

Moazzam Begg was taken from his home in the middle of the night.

He would not see freedom for more than three years. His captor was the United States Government. He was taken from his home in Pakistan to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan; soon, he found himself thousands of miles away, at Guantanamo Bay Prison in the Caribbean Sea.

The Americans accused Begg, who is a dual Pakistani-British citizen, with aiding the Taliban and al Qaeda. He denied the charges, and was never formally charged or prosecuted.

He spent three years at Guantanamo – two in solitary confinement – before the British government successfully lobbied for his release.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Guantanamo • Latest Episode

Former Gitmo chief prosecutor to Obama: 'Man up'

May 14th, 2013
05:29 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Hearing Colonel Morris Davis speak, it’s easy to forget that he used to be the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay.

“We used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave; we’ve been the constrained and the cowardly,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

President Obama promised to close the Guantanamo detention facility when he took office in 2009; four years later, it’s still open.

A majority of the detainees, over 100, have been on hunger strike for more than three months to protest their detention; the military has resorted to force feeding them.

Eighty six of the detainees, Davis said, have never been charged with a crime. Many of those who were convicted of crimes were sent back to their home countries, and many are now free.

“It’s a bizarre, perverted system of justice,” he said, “where being convicted of a war crime is your ticket home, and if you’re never charged, much less convicted, you spend the rest of your life sitting at Guantanamo.”

A scant six years ago, as chief prosecutor at Guantanamo under President Bush, Colonel Davis sounded like a true believer.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Guantanamo • Latest Episode

How one detainee got trapped in legal limbo at Guantanamo

May 8th, 2013
11:18 AM ET

By Samuel Burke & Ken Olshansky, CNN

The vast majority of the 166 detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay say they would rather starve than spend another day in limbo.

One of the more than 100 men now on hunger strike is an Afghan man in his early thirties, known only as Obaidullah – a prisoner with no charges filed against him.

His only daughter was born just two days before he was taken into custody. She'll be eleven this summer, and has never met her father.

In March, Obaidullah wrote a detailed account of his hunger strike, which the U.S. Department of Justice recently declassified.

"I'm losing all hope because I've been imprisoned at Guantanamo for almost eleven years now, and I still do not know my fate," he wrote.  FULL POST

Filed under:  Guantanamo • Latest Episode

Is it medically ethical to force-feed Guantanamo detainees?

May 1st, 2013
06:21 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

There’s a life-and-death tug-of-war going on between President Barack Obama and more than 100 prisoners who would rather die than stay alive forever at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

Nearly all of the inmates there have never been charged with a crime.

Twenty-three detainees and counting have lost so much weight that they are being force-fed.

A doctor's code is "do no harm," but it is also to respect the autonomy or the independence of the patient.

That’s according to world-renowned bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the NYU Medical Center.  FULL POST

Filed under:  Guantanamo • Latest Episode

Guantanamo at a boiling point

April 29th, 2013
06:14 PM ET

By Samuel Burke & Ken Olshansky, CNN

For the first time in recent memory, the forgotten detainees at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay are getting the world's attention.

The U.S. government acknowledges that 100 prisoners are on hunger strikes, though defense attorneys think that number is considerably higher. Just last month, officials said the number was only 31 prisoners.

Officials say medical staff are force feeding 21 prisoners who are at the greatest risk of starving themselves to death – an invasive process that involves running a tube through the nasal passage into the stomach and then feeding the patient a nutritional supplement. Attorneys for the prisoners describe the process as excruciating.  FULL POST

Filed under:  Guantanamo • Latest Episode

Hunger-striking Guantanamo prisoners near death

April 23rd, 2013
11:53 AM ET

By Samuel Burke & Claire Calzonetti CNN

The term enemy combatant has become a familiar one since 9/11, after it was used for detainees who were sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Dozens of prisoners at that detention camp are currently on their tenth week of a hunger strike.

American authorities there say that 84 – half of the prisoners – are not eating.

Carlos Warner, a public defender who represents 11 of the detainees, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday that multiple sources tell him that the number is actually 130 of the 166 prisoners; he is afraid many of them will die soon.  FULL POST

Filed under:  Guantanamo • Latest Episode

Guantanamo prisoners ready to ‘embrace death’

March 27th, 2013
12:30 PM ET

By Samuel Burke & Ken Olshansky, CNN

More and more detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison are joining a hunger strike to protest their conditions.

The U.S. government says 31 prisoners have now stopped eating. At least 11 of them have lost so much weight that they are now being force-fed.

Some of these detainees have been in detention for more than 11 years with no trial and no end in sight, even though many have long-since been cleared for transfer to their home countries, or to a third country.

The hunger strikes started in February, when prisoners claim that guards searched through their personal effects, including their Qurans — a practice they protested.

A military spokesman denies any mishandling of the prisoners' holy books.

In testimony earlier this month, the Marine Corps commander overseeing Guantanamo pointed to a more fundamental reason for the hunger strike.

“They had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed,” Gen. John F. Kelly said. “They were devastated when the president backed off - at least their perception - of closing the facility.”

Carlos Warner is a public defender representing 11 Guantanamo detainees, two of whom are among are hunger strikers. One of them, a Kuwaiti named Fayez al-Kandari, has lost more than 30 pounds in recent weeks.

Warner just returned from Guantanamo, where he described the conditions as “dire” in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

A change in military commander at Guantanamo Bay sparked the current situation, Warner told Amanpour.

“Col. Bogdan lit the fuel on fire by his oppressive search of the men and taking away the things that they had grown accustomed to for years, like isomats,” which Warner described as a type of insulated bed mat the prisoners had been sleeping on. In the midst of that situation, Warner said the search of Qurans took place and became a rallying point for the detainees there.

“This is about frustration; this is about the Obama administration ignoring Guantanamo in every way, shape and form.”

Warner describes himself as a liberal who supported President Obama, but is disappointed that Obama has completely ignored Guantanamo and blamed Republicans in Congress – an argument Warner rejects.

“There's not one person in this administration that I can call and say I need to talk somebody in the White House about the hunger strike.”

Warner said there had been one person in the State Department, Daniel Fried, whose job was to oversee the closing down of Guantanamo; but now, his office has actually been closed down.

This leaves Warner’s clients in “indefinite detention” for life, he said. “It leaves them with the prospect of the only way we leave Guantanamo is death. And unfortunately, I think the men are ready to embrace this. And I don't see the military backing off.”

Warner told Amanpour the military rejected a possible solution his clients offered up: “The men wanted to voluntarily surrender the Qurans. They would rather not have their Qurans than have them searched in the manner that they'd been searched. This would get them eating tomorrow.”

This was previously allowed in Guantanamo from 2006 to 2007, according to Warner. He said the new command either is unaware of that; or is unwilling to go that step.

“That would not solve the problem. But it would get the men eating again,” Warner said.

Filed under:  Guantanamo • Latest Episode