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Halifax fasts for Gitmo detainees

Members of Halifax Peace Coalition fasts in solidarity with indefinite detainees.

by Miles Howe

Members of Halifax Peace Coalition fast for Gitmo detainees and stage peaceful protest outside US Consulate General's office in Halifax [Photo: M. Howe]
Members of Halifax Peace Coalition fast for Gitmo detainees and stage peaceful protest outside US Consulate General's office in Halifax [Photo: M. Howe]
Picture that Sam Lorincz, second youngest member of Halifax Peace Coalition, intends to mail to US President Obama
Picture that Sam Lorincz, second youngest member of Halifax Peace Coalition, intends to mail to US President Obama

K'jipuktuk (Halifax) - As the vast majority of prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay are currently engaged in a hunger strike, members of the Halifax Peace Coalition went without food yesterday in their own solidarity strike. They also attempted - unsuccessfully - to deliver a letter of protest to the Consulate General of the United States, which had shuttered its office doors earlier in the day.

Of the 166 prisoners currently being held at Guantanamo Bay, a US military spokesperson recently noted that 100 were on hunger strike. Prisoners' lawyers estimate the number to be even higher, with some saying it is upwards of 130 prisoners.

According to prisoners' lawyers, conditions at the prison have even further deteriorated since the US Army took over guard duties from the US Navy last September. While human rights groups have noted that Guantanamo Bay has been a den of torture since detainees were first transferred there in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, an increasingly untenable relationship between prisoners and guards, including alleged abuse of prisoners' Qu'rans by members of the US Army, has sparked off this massive hunger strike.

This abuse, coupled with the prospect of 'indefinite detention', whereby the majority of prisoners have been held at Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial for years – indeed 86 of the detainees have been cleared for release – has created a situation that seems to mimic some twisted version of an endless purgatory. In a final abuse, the prisoners have not even been allowed to engage in a hunger strike in peace and respect. Instead, prisoners and their lawyers note that they are being force-fed with overly-large sized tubes.

“The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been detained, without due trial and without due process for upwards of ten years,” noted Fionna Harris of the Halifax Peace Coalition. “For an American prison operating outside of the country to have such a terrible human rights record says a great deal about the politics of that country. We're fasting in solidarity with those prisoners to show our support, to show that there are people that care in Canada about their plight. It's a symbolic gesture, but I think it's important and also at the same time we're able to reach out to the public and inform people of what's going on in Guantanamo Bay.”

The Consulate General of the United States could not be reached for comment.


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