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Guantanamo: ten years of human rights violations

Salmaan Khan

January 25, 2012

To mark the 10th anniversary of Guantanamo prison, Amnesty International held a 10 hour event in Montreal demanding Omar Khadr’s repatriation, with participation from Quebec artists and Québec solidaire spokesperson Françoise David.

On January 11, 2002, the Bush administration authorized the transfer of 20 men captured in Afghanistan to the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. They would be the first of almost 800 men who would pass through this “dark stain on the nation’s soul”. Ten years later, 171 detainees from over 20 countries remain at the facility, almost all without any formal charges laid against them. In fact, to date, only six have ever been convicted of a crime.

To mark the 10 year anniversary, detainees at the facility planned three days of passive resistance and protest. A common form of resistance has been communal hunger strikes. However, these have been quickly quashed by military guards who would “force-feed them with dirty feeding tubes that have been violently inserted and withdrawn as punishment”.

The reckless disregard for human rights and the safety of these men is commonplace at “Gitmo” as countless reports have emerged of systemic torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging, and religious persecution. The trauma associated with these violent acts has had a profound effect on the detainees as there were a “reported” 350 acts of attempted suicide in just the first 2 years of the prison’s operation.

Yet despite calls for its immediate closure, including a report by Amnesty International that was supported by “UN experts, former US presidents Carter and Clinton, and heads of state from Europe and elsewhere”, the Obama administration continues to maintain its operation—two years after he promised to close it. Meanwhile Prime Minister Harper has ensured that Omar Khadr, kidnapped and incarcerated at Guantanamo as a child, has still not been repatriated to Canada.

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