Guantánamo: if youre squeamish, look away now

This post is not for the squeamish. So, Guantánamo Bay. What else is there to say about it? Well, more and more, as it happens.

Last week I was talking to a former Guantánamo prisoner who saw a fellow prisoner beaten with clubs for touching his cell’s wire fence. This, you see, was “PROHIBITED”. And it didn’t matter that the man in question, a Saudi called Abdul Rahman, had no legs and was hoisting himself over a bucket to defecate. He still got clubbed.

Oh, and the person I was chatting to – Murat Kurnaz, who spent four and half years at the camp – used to get beaten up by the guards for feeding morsels of his bread ration to the local iguanas. Yep, it was PROHIBITED.

So – it doesn’t really come as a surprise to learn that the camp authorities are about to put a child soldier on trial. He’s a Canadian called Omar Khadr, who’s 21 now but was actually 15 when he was first taken there.

There are two main things wrong with this. First, the trials (so-called “military commissions”) at Guantánamo are shaping up to be more kangaroo-like than a certain loveable antipodean marsupial called “Skippy”. Ok, they’ll be unfair. We’re talking about trials entirely run by the military. Trials of people who have been held in secret. Trials of people who have been subject to “rendition”. And trials of people who’ve been interrogated/tortured with no lawyers or other independent monitors present. Not exactly Snaresbrook Crown Court then.

And, second, what is the US doing taking children to Guantánamo in the first place? As it happens, the military commissions have no juvenile justice provisions whatsoever (as required under international law) but they’re patently unfair for anyone, man or boy. Take action for Omar here.

So, it’s good to see that the former attorney general Lord Goldsmith is criticising what’s happening with Omar, but what – you may ask – has any of this to do with the UK now? Well, again, a fair bit actually.

Just this week lawyers for Binyman Mohammed, a UK resident still held at Guantánamo, have started legal action to try to get the UK to shoulder some responsibility for this man who, say his lawyers, had his penis slashed in Morocco after being taken there in one of the CIA’s “rendition” planes. Let’s hope he gets some help. Again, you can take action here.

Finally – and it’s still not exactly for the squeamish – I’m pleased to report that our waterboarding film has spread around the world. Err, it’s gone viral!

CNN did a top-quality piece on it last week and bloggers from all over the place have blogged on it. Meanwhile, the film on YouTube and our own Unsubscribe sites are still getting thousands of viewers. So, don’t risk getting left out of the conversation at your local pub/bar/coffee shop/knitting club - check it out now!

Our Amnesty mates in the US were telling American journalists about it as a congressional committee met yesterday to discuss US interrogation techniques. But have Hillary, Barak and John seen it yet? I think we should be told.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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