I had a chance to meet with some of the folks who have served as mediators to Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and I am deeply disturbed by what I learned.
Here's a little update from Guantanamo. Some of the things I learned...
One hundred and sixty-six prisoners remain in the prison. Eighty-six have been cleared for release, and yet they remain in prison -- some have been there for more than 10 years (with no trial).
There are now dozens of human rights groups and faith-organizations calling for an end to the indefinite detention and torture of the prisoners.
The New York Times calls it a "stain" on America, and wrote: "The prison should have never been opened. It was nothing more than Mr. Bush's attempt to evade accountability by placing prisoners in another country." And in 2009 Obama promised to close it. Now, in 2013, it is still open and the prisoners are being held indefinitely without a trial. It is reported, that some of them were farmers taken by mistake in the countrywide sweeps (the U.S. offered a bounty of $5,000 per prisoner). One of them was Adnan Latif, who spent more than 10 years in Guantanamo without ever being charged. He was a poet, father and husband -- suffered severe beatings and died in prison. He was cleared for release four separate times, yet continued to remain in the prison. On Sept. 8, 2012, Adnan died. Some of his last words were: "Where is the world to save us?"
Another prisoner is Shaker Aamer, the sole U.K. citizen still at Guantanamo. Shaker recently pleaded, "I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children." He was cleared for release six years ago, but continues to wait to hug his kids.
Now a total of nine prisoners have died. There have been several suicides and dozens of other attempted suicides as prisoners seek to end the brutal life at Guantanamo.
In a desperate attempt to bring attention to the situation, the prisoners have gone on a hunger strike which is now in its third month. As of today, it is reported that there are 100 prisoners on a hunger strike, nearly 20 are being forced fed, and six have been hospitalized. One of the hunger-strikers, Samir Naji, described the desperation within the prison as men now weigh as little as 77 pounds, in a recent New York Times article.
"The hunger strike," says Jeremy Varon, an organizer with Witness Against Torture, "is the predictable result of a failed policy of indefinite detention that is morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable. If action is not taken to change that policy, more prisoners will die and our nation's shame will deepen."Here are some ways to keep in the loop:
It all raises some very important questions for people of faith and conscience doesn't it?
"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." -- Hebrews 13:3