Public opinion vital for Gitmo prisoners to be released
Stafford Smith’s charity Reprieve has launched a campaign called “Stand Fast For Justice” to coincide with Ramadan. It allows people to participate in the fast for several hours or days to support the prisoners in Guantanamo. “Stand Fast For Justice” offers guidelines for those who wish to fast in order to prevent serious health implications. Some celebrities, such as Frankie Boyle, Julie Christie and Rob DelNaja are taking part in this campaign.
RT:The military are saying that the number of hunger strikers has gone down but can we expect that number to shoot back up again after Ramadan ends next month?
Clive Stafford Smith: The first thing to say is that it doesn’t really matter how many people are on strike, because the real principle here is that 52 % of them who had been cleared for release should be released and the president said that himself. So they just need to do it. the ones who are on hunger strike, the US military is fiddling about, and they have done that a lot over the years. Some of the prisoners are, indeed, taking a little bit to eat, because that is what one does during Ramadan, to break your fast, but they are not giving up. There is solid support among the prisoners for the ongoing strike.
RT:You are on hunger strike yourself. What do you hope to achieve by that and just how far will you go?
CSS: I’ve gone without food for seven days, which is trivial compared to what the prisoners are going through. Indeed, I plan to stop it tomorrow, because what we are doing is a rolling process. The British comedian Frankie Boyle is taking over from me. I am very proud that I just had an e-mail from Julie Christie, the actress, who is going to do it for a week also. This is symbolic; this is simply supportive of the prisoners who are going through some awful stuff there.
RT:And a federal judge today has said that she has no jurisdiction over the force-feeding of the three inmates. So does that really imply that even the likes of you, lawyers, and indeed federal judges have absolutely no power over the way the military is handling this situation.
CSS: The law is only one aspect of power, isn’t it? Public opinion is far more important sometimes. The court of public opinion can be much more important than the court of law. And if you look at the number of prisoners who’ve been released from Guantanamo Bay, the number released by court order is very very small, but the number released because we’ve proven publicly that they had the wrong person, or this is an injustice is very large. So I am hoping that we will achieve justice anyhow.