US Congress keeps putting blocks on closing Guantanamo
RT:Some hunger strikers dropped out of the hunger strike during Ramadan, Is it a temporary measure or a sign of the end of the strike?
Moazzam Begg: No, it is definitely a temporary measure,
but of course people are going to be fasting during the day
anyway, from sunrise to sunset. As a respect, I mean this is
ironic, but the Americans are not force-feeding people during the
day, they are doing it now during the night when the people are
not fasting. But that of course, that’s only for the people that
are hunger striking. And the hunger strike will I believe
recommence as soon as Ramadan in over, because this is not about
a lull this is about a concept for justice, that these people
have been fighting for. They have absolutely no choice but to
hunger strike to the point at which they are, I believe, ready to
RT:Why the prison officials do not listen to the world community?
Moazzam Begg: Well, it is really sad, because it looks like they are not even listening to Obama. Because Obama really tried to do earlier this year that he wanted to close Guantanamo because of the height of the hunger strikes and he responded to that again by saying: “I want to close Guantanamo”. He keeps getting blocked by Congress, but really this is bigger than simply Obama saying something. He has to follow through. There are several countries where the individuals can and should be returned to, most of them, in fact an overwhelming majority who have never been charged and have been designated for trial by military commission or anything else. They should be returned home if they had been convicted, they would have served now the equivalent of almost 25 years sentence, a life sentence. And so the answer is that there is simply not enough will of the United States of America not among the American people sadly and certainly not among the American politicians to do the right thing, which is to release these men, return them back home and let them live the rest of their lives with their families, like all of us have, like the former Guantanamo prisoners, the 600 of us who have returned to try to build normal lives.
RT:The hunger strike has been going for 6 months now. How long can an individual last in such conditions?
Moazzam Begg: Well, clearly they’d lasted for 12 years almost. There are 9 people who did not last, 9 people have died in Guantanamo. And, you know, there are several people who have literally lost their mental faculties. Amongst the methods used against them, the recent one now is that these people are being sexually abused. Which is Shaker Aamer, a British resident who is still held there, he says now he has been sexually abused, especially when he was getting legal visits. So every time his lawyer comes he is strip searched, he is violated, he has a cavity search performed on him. And then when his lawyer leaves and he is taken back to a cell, the same things happen. So this dissuades a lot of the prisoners too, they do not even want to see their lawyers. And of course this is the situation that is intolerable absolutely anywhere else in the world, but in Guantanamo it is ok. In Guantanamo the rule of law simply does not apply. And that is what continues to be the darkest blackest page of United States history in modern times. And I think Obama recognizes this, but I think everybody else around him, and particularly Congress keep putting these blocks on and put America in a position that is completely untenable and Guantanamo continues to exist.
RT: Do you hold anyone personally liable for what you had to go through and for what the others are going through now?
Moazzam Begg: Well, absolutely, look the last year I was in this war tribunal that was set up in Malaysia where prominent US enforcement lawmakers and prominent lawmakers from around the world came together and put charges against President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and several others who are the part of the Bush administration, who had ordered Guantanamo, who had ordered Abu Ghraib, who had ordered torture, who had defined the concept of torture as something that was organ failure or death otherwise it is not torture. So all of those people were found guilty in that tribunal in Malaysia. So if any of those people were to go to Malaysia they would be arrested under war crimes warrants. However the rest of the world has not followed suit, when it should have. And it doesn’t matter whether it is an individual or a state, and if a state commits crimes then it should be held accountable. And the accountability process is something that Obama had said before he came into power, that the CIA operatives who tortured individuals were later sent to Guantanamo will not be arrested or charged. They will simply wanted to turn that page over and not torture in future, but the people who did the torture will get away scot- free.