Pressure is mounting on Obama over Gitmo hunger strike
The US Senate is due to hold its first hearing since 2009 into the Guantanamo Bay prison on Wednesday. The expense of keeping the camp open, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the pressure from rights groups are expected to help the case for closing the facility. Dozens of detainees remain in confinement there despite being cleared for release - that, along with reported mistreatment, triggered a months-long hunger strike among the prisoners.
RT:On Wednesday the Senate will hold a hearing on the Guantanamo Bay prison. What do you think will eventually end up coming out of that?
Jon Eisenberg: Well I’m not sure, but I hope, what comes out that is more pressure on President Obama to do something about Guantanamo Bay
RT:Do you think the President will get that message, if there is such a conclusion?
JE: I believe that the more pressure is brought to bear on the President to close Guantanamo or at least begin by releasing the detainees who had been cleared for release the more likely it is to happen. I believe international pressure, I believe pressure from members of the Senate and that happens through letters written by Senator Feinstein, Senator Durbin. I believe pressure from the courts and that happened recently in two opinions written by Judges of the United States District Court condemning certain conditions in Guantanamo Bay. And next I hope pressure from the Senate Committee in the hearings tomorrow. I hope all of these together will continue to put pressure on the President to do something positive about the problem that Guantanomo Bay has become.
RT:You filed an injunction to let the detainees pray together during Ramadan. Will the court hear the complaint?
JE: Well, that motion is in conjunction with our effort to get an injunction against force feeding. We began a couple of weeks ago by asking the Courts to issue injunctions against the forcible feeding of the hunger strikers. At the outset of Ramadan it became evident that the military authorities at Guantanamo Bay were attempting to coerce detainees to stop hunger striking by offering them a carrot. That is if they started eating again they would be permitted to engage in communal prayer during Ramadan. During the 30 days of Ramadan special communal prayers are set in the evening after the last evening prayer in which they read portions from the Quran and it is normally done communally and it’s called Tarawi. It’s normally and best done communally and the hunger strikers are being denied the right to perform the communal prayer during Ramadan. The second injunction that we have sought which is an emergency injunction from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals is to enjoin the government from preventing the detainees from engaging in communal prayer during Ramadan. We filed that motion yesterday and we are waiting a ruling.
RT:What percentage of the prisoners are still participating in the fast and the hunger strike?
JE: Well, it is hard to tell and we are dependent on the Government itself to tell us how many are still participating. I believe the numbers according to the government currently are somewhere in 60 or 70. We do know at least 45, perhaps 46 detainees are still on the list for force feeding. So, those who have been forced fed continue to be force fed, their numbers have not dropped.
RT:Can the hunger Strike make a difference now?
JE: I believe it can. The reason why these prisoners are hunger striking is to protest. Currently there are indefinite detentions, many of them have been held for up to 11 years, many of those held without any charges being filed, their detention is indefinite. Can hunger striking do something about it? Modern world history is replete with instances where hunger strikers have made a difference. It hopefully does not lead to death that is not the purpose of a hunger strike. The purpose is not to commit suicide, it is to make a statement, in the case of these detainees the statement they are trying to make is “stop our indefinite detention”, it is inhuman, it is brutal, half of us have been cleared for released, let us go. The only way they can express that is by hunger striking and it is very much getting the world attention. That is the purpose of it.