For Immediate Release
“Punishment” and Beating of Gitmo Hunger-Strikers Revealed by Yemeni Detainee Ahead of Yemen President’s US Visit
WASHINGTON - A Yemeni detainee in Guantanamo has revealed how prison authorities have told him he is being “punished” for hunger-striking, ahead of his country’s President’s visit to the US for talks with Barack Obama.
Samir Moqbel, who contributed an op-ed to the New York Times earlier this year, has told his lawyers at human rights charity Reprieve that Guantanamo authorities demanded he hand over his blanket, shoes and toothbrush as a result of his undertaking a peaceful hunger-strike in protest against his ongoing detention without charge or trial. When he refused, he says “they brought the ERF [Emergency Reaction Force] team. They came in and hit me, and beat me. I was bleeding from my mouth.”
Mr Moqbel, who has been cleared, describes how detainees have been moved to Camp VI “to break the determination of the hunger strikers.” He says that the Colonel in charge has told them that “Any person who continues on the hunger strike will be moved to a solitary confinement and will be removed from communal areas.”
Mr Moqbel’s account, provided to his Attorney and Reprieve Strategic Director, Cori Crider, via an unclassified phone call, emerges ahead of President Hadi’s visit to the White House on August 1st, during which the issue of Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo is expected to be discussed.
Commenting, Cori Crider said: “President Obama and President Hadi must finally un-stick the Gitmo issue when they sit down this week. Guantánamo is a big, sharp thorn in the side of US-Yemeni relations – Yemenis are by far the largest group left there, and have been in limbo for years. Meanwhile things are only getting worse at the base for Yemenis like Samir, whose blood was shed just because he peaceably refused to give up his toothbrush. He’s been compliant throughout his detention and has repeatedly said he would sign whatever it takes to go home to his family in Ta’iz, so what’s the holdup?”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve's press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are protesting. There are people who have been here for 11 years and are cleared to go. In fact, if you look at the people that they have cleared, that means they are not criminals. They are being kept for no reason.
I am still on hunger strike. Around ten days ago, they moved us from Camp V to VI. As you know, the Camp VI is a bad camp. The treatment in Camp VI is really, really bad. When I entered the cell they asked me to remove some materials. So I asked them why, and they said ‘you are being punished, you are under disciplinary action’. So I told them: ‘I have not done anything for this. Why would you punish me? I have not done anything wrong.’ They said there are the rules in Camp VI: no shoes, no toothbrush, no blanket. These are the rules. I don’t have any of that. I am left with a tiny blanket and an ISOMAT. They have taken everything. The only shoes I am left is shower shoes.
I asked: ‘Why am I being punished?’ ‘They said: you are now in Camp VI, and you will be treated like everyone else in VI.’ I refused to give them the items – I said, you can’t punish me for no reason, so I said no. Then they brought the ERF team. They came in and hit me, and beat me. I was bleeding from my mouth. And there was a cameraman and everything. The guards who were holding me hit me on my face, my stomach, my legs. The person holding me on my neck and face held me very , very strongly and he hit me on my face with his hand.
There is a video. It should be available. I looked at the side of my mouth and pointed my hand toward the camera to show what they had done to me. [Note: under JTF-GTMO’s rules, Soldiers are required to film what are called ‘Forcible Cell Extractions’ (FCEs), in which a team of soldiers in riot gear ‘subdue’ a prisoner. But such tapes are not provided to prisoners’ lawyers or the media.]…If you look at the video you will see very clearly that I did not resist. I am on hunger strike and being force-fed. I’m way too weak to resist.
They have given us communal stay for Ramadan. But after a few days they sent the detainees back to their solitary confinement. Colonel has said that the rec time would increase gradually. Camp VI is to break the determination of the hunger strikers. About the force-feeding through the tubes, he said the following: Any person who continues on the hunger strike will be moved to a solitary confinement and will be removed from communal areas. These are instructions from the Colonel and the person in charge of force-feeding. Therefore, a number of detainees were forced to eat food normally so that they are not returned back to the cold solitary cells so that they are not deprived of toothbrushes, blankets, and exposure to sunlight.
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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.