European parliament to debate Guantanamo hunger strikes

April 17, 2013

The European Parliament will tomorrow [Thursday April 18th] debate an emergency motion calling for the closure of Guantanamo and for Europe to accept the resettlement of further cleared detainees from the US prison camp.

The draft motion expresses “grave concern” for the well-being of detainees amid the ongoing hunger strike, and stresses that “the continuing detention without charge or trial of these men is contrary to basic principles of justice.” It calls on EU member states to offer “to receive additional Guantanamo inmates on European soil, especially the approximately dozen men cleared for release who cannot return to their home countries.” Lawyers for the men in Guantanamo estimate that the vast majority of those still indefinitely detained are hunger-striking, including Nabil Hadjarab, Shaker Aamer and Younous Chekkouri.

Nabil Hadjarab grew up in France, his first language is French and his grandfather, father and half-brother all fought for the French army.

Shaker Aamer is the last remaining British resident in the prison, while Younous Chekkouri has German family.

Nabil is being force-fed by US authorities, a practice denounced in the emergency draft motion by International Red Cross head Peter Maurer. The World Medical Association views forced feeding of hunger strikers as a form of inhuman and degrading treatment and states that is unethical, and is never justified.

In a phone call to his lawyer and Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith, Younous Chekkouri, who has lost around 30 pounds, said that:

“The nightmare has started again. For some time, things had got a bit better here…but now it has changed again.” He went on, “Really, now it is just pain everywhere. I don’t want to die in Guantanamo.”

The ongoing hunger strikes were prompted by President Obama’s failure to fulfil his 2009 promise to close the prison. In January of 2013 the office charged with closing Guantanamo Bay was itself shut down, signalling the apparent end of the Obama administration’s efforts to transfer detainees cleared for release out of the prison. A recent report chaired by the Under Secretary for Homeland Security under President Bush, declared unequivocally that the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo amounted to torture.

Cori Crider, legal director at Reprieve, said: “Guantanamo is not just the US’ mess, but one for which Europe also bears great responsibility. European countries helped the US send men to the prison and provided interrogators. But all EU member states now have an opportunity to make this right. Many of those still detained grew up in, and feel a deep affinity with, European countries. Whenever I talk with my client Nabil Hadjarab he speaks of the happiest time of his life: growing up in France. It is fantastic that the parliament is debating this issue at such a crucial time but they must pass the motion and help resettle cleared men to EU countries. My clients don’t want to die inside GuantanamoBay; Europe can help to make sure this doesn’t happen.”