5 Ways President Obama Can End the Hunger Strike & Close Guantánamo

UPDATE: On 4/30 President Obama again vowed to close Guantanamo. While we welcome this call words must be followed up by action, such as the steps below.

gitmo shaker finalSign our new petition telling President Obama and Congress that you support closing Guantanamo.

Imagine you’re Shaker Aamer, locked up without charge for 11 years, thousands of miles from home, despite being cleared, for years, to leave. The UK government has repeatedly intervened on your behalf in an effort to reunite you with your wife and children in London. But you’re still held. You go on hunger strike in an attempt to draw attention to your plight. You have told your lawyers that you and your fellow inmates are being beaten, deprived of sleep and punished just for protesting. And all this is being done by the United States government, whose president promised four years and three months ago to shut Guantánamo for good. Just imagine.

Two months into the most recent hunger strike at Guantánamo and over three years after the deadline for closing the facility, President Obama has barely said a peep about his broken promise. But ignoring the problem at Guantánamo is simply unacceptable. The US government is obligated under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other treaties and binding laws, to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. That’s a point made last week by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in this strong statement.

As High Commissioner Pillay points out, yes, those responsible for the September 11 attacks must be brought to justice, and the government has a duty and responsibility to ensure safety. But the US can’t exempt itself from its human rights obligations in doing either of these things. That’s why instead of Guantánamo, the criminal justice and law enforcement systems in the US – available from day one –  should be used. These systems are far from perfect and must themselves be reformed, but they are quipped to ensure justice for the 9/11 attacks and address any security risks posed by those held at Guantánamo.


Israel: Say No to Detention Without Charge or Trial

Khader AdnanAs Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan verged dangerously on the border between life and death, much of the world turned its collective gaze toward Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Adnan, who was arrested at his home in the occupied West Bank in the middle of the night, had been sustaining a 66 day hunger strike in protest of his treatment by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) and his detention without charge or trial.

Onlookers breathed a collective sigh of relief when Adnan’s lawyer reached an agreement with Israeli authorities on February 21st, prompting the dying man to halt his strike. The state has reportedly agreed not to extend Khader Adnan’s four-month “administrative detention” unless “significant” new evidence emerges, and has said that it will count the days he served in detention before the order was issued on January 10.


5 Countries Where Your Online Comments Could Land You in Jail

free jabbar savalan facebook page

When you log onto Facebook, you might expect to hear from long-lost friends or to see pictures from the latest family reunion. Maybe you follow Amnesty on Facebook or Twitter, read and comment on this blog, or keep a blog yourself.

But when you log off at the end of the day, you probably don’t expect the police to come knocking on your door. For people in some countries, that’s exactly what can happen. A 2011 study by Freedom House examining 37 countries found that 23 of them had arrested a blogger or internet user for their online posts. These encroachments on internet freedom – regardless of laws – come at a time of explosive growth in the number of internet users worldwide. Governments are clearly terrified because they know that information is power.


On Hunger Strikes and Roxana Saberi

A few months ago I saw “Hunger,” a disturbing movie about the hunger strike of IRA member Bobbie Sands in Maze Prison in Northern Ireland — a hunger strike that ended in his death.  When hunger strikes started being used as a means of protest or to call attention to a cause — I believe it was in the 1970s — they were considered quite extraordinary and powerful.

A picture taken on Septmber 17, 2003 shows US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi filming footage in Tehran. (c) BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

A picture taken on Septmber 17, 2003 shows US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi filming footage in Tehran. (c) BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Now after so many hunger strikes by so many different people who have sought to draw attention to causes both weighty and trivial, many of us barely notice when someone goes on a hunger strike.  But we have been forced to rethink hunger strikes lately as imprisoned journalist Roxana Saberi decided to initiate a higher strike shortly before her 32nd birthday to protest the eight-year prison sentence she was given after her conviction for espionage by a Revolutionary Court in Iran. She has been on a hunger strike for more than a week now, and her father Reza Saberi reports that his small-framed daughter has become very frail.  She has announced that she will continue her hunger strike until she is released.

Roxana Saberi’s situation, her picture and her hunger strike, have been widely publicized in the news media.  Many of us feel a personal connection to Roxana Saberi, especially after reading the impassioned letter written by her fiance, the great Iranian film director Bahman Ghobadi.  Yesterday, Reporters Without Borders announced their own solidarity hunger strike; several journalists have pledged to substitute their own hunger strikes so that Roxana Saberi does not have to carry this burden herself.

When we read about Roxana Saberi’s determination, we become alarmed, we admire her and wonder if she would really go through with it to the end, and if the Iranian authorities will finally do the right thing and release her from the horrible Evin Prison where so many Iranians have endured torture and miserable conditions; many have died there.  We also might wonder what we ourselves would be willing to do — and how far we would be willing to go — to protest an injustice.  Maybe some of us will be inspired to carry out our own solidarity hunger strike; many thousands have already responded to Amnesty International’s action by sending letters to the Iranian government.  If any of you have ideas about creative actions we can take to support his courageous woman, please share them on this blog.  Thank you.

By Elise Auerbach, Amnesty International USA Iran country specialist