UPDATE FROM GITMO NORTH ON DAY 80 OF HUNGER STRIKE
Monday, February 12, 2007
"We may not have much more time, so please keep up the pressure in standing for our rights. We thank you for your kindness and support."
-- Open Letter from Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub, Hassan Almrei, Day 80 of hunger strike
In this report:
1. Taking Action: Phone the Prison, keep up pressure on Day and Harper
2. Brief overview of situation: public pressure is working, but more is needed.
3. Open Letter from Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub, Hassan Almrei, Day 80 of hunger strike
4. "Choc-Well" Day Gets Sauced
5. Links to recent editorials and statements
NOTE: Complete background and related documentation on the hunger strike available at http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/gitmonorthstrike.htm
1. First and foremost, until the hunger strike is resolved, please keep calling and writing to Stockwell Day demanding that he appoint the Correctional Investigator to assume jurisdiction over the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre. Also demand that the KIHC provide supervisors for when the men need to move throughout the facility, whether for health care, family visits, or media visits.
Phone: (613) 995-1702
Fax: (613) 995.1154
Call Stephen Harper with the same message: resolve the hunger strike, appoint the Correctional Investigator
Phone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900
2. Call the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (KIHC) and ask to speak to the directors, Cindy Berry, and or/ Cathy Kench. Both have shown a shocking lack of urgency with respect to the hunger strike. If they are not in definitely ask for their voice mail and raise the points below. Also fax letters to them calling for:
a. A permanent written arrangement whereby supervisors can be made available so that the men can safely move throughout the facility without fear of misconduct or false allegations by the guards. In a facility with 23 staff and 3 detainees, such arrangements should not be difficult to make.
b. Immediate and ongoing medical care, including expediting surgery for Mr. Jaballah's double hernia, treatment for Mr. Mahjoub's years-old knee injury and Hepatitis C, and other needs. Medical treatment cannot be dangled in front of the men as something they'll receive only if they comply with petty prison rules.
c. Develop an atmosphere of care that treats the men as human beings, not as animals in cages. This means sitting down with the men and having honest and sincere dialogue about the many issues they raise. It also means recognizing that you are not an objective party, and that the only way to solve these problems is to turn them over to an independent ombudsperson, the Office of the Correctional Investigator.
CONTACT INFO. FOR KINGSTON IMMIGRATION HOLDING CENTRE:
Phone for Cindy Berry: (613) 351-8805
Direct line to Cathy Kench, Director, (613) 351-8812
Fax Number: (613) 351-8818 or (613) 351-8822
Please be polite in your calls to the facility: any verbal abuse will only be turned on the men.
The next few days will be crucial as Mohammad Mahjoub marks day 80 of his hunger strike, day 69 for Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei. All three have been on a juice and water fast, with Mahjoub now refraining from juice. They are very weak. Mr. Mahjoub had his blood pressure taken on Sunday, but had to be taken in a wheelchair, because he is too weak and dehydrated to walk.
This morning, a delegation with most members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is arriving at Guantanamo North and will spend most of the day meeting with the men.
PUBLIC PRESSURE HAS BEEN WORKING
As a result of overwhelming response across Canada, both the Standing Committee on Public Safety and the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration passed emergency resolutions last week calling for the appointment of the Office of the Correctional Investigator to assume jurisdiction at Guantanamo North.
The offices of Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day have been besieged with calls and letters from across the country. Day has issued a stock letter to the editor to numerous newspapers to clear up what he calls "distortions" around the hunger strike, no doubt in reference to our own document that deals with six lies and distortions made by the "Public Safety" Minister himself (and available to download at: http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/daylies.htm
International pressure is also mounting. In a letter dropped off at the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines, a group called Focus on the Global South wrote: "For a country that claims to champion human rights and democracy, the Canadian government's actions towards [the Gitmo North detainees] and other detainees in the "war against terror" does not serve as a good example to other countries around the world, especially to the Philippines, where the government is also being held to account for numerous human rights violations."
COSMETIC CHANGES AT GITMO NORTH NOT ENOUGH; HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND SERIOUS WEIGHT LOSS RESULT FROM HUNGER STRIKE
Finally, there have been a number of cosmetic changes in response to public pressure at Gitmo North itself. Arbitrary head counts have almost (but not entirely) been eliminated, and late last week, on day 75 of Mahjoub's hunger strike, the men finally got a supervisor to escort them next door to see health care staff. A doctor assessed the men and was shocked at their condition: Mahjoub and Jaballah were both found to have very high blood pressure and to have lost a significant amount of weight. Mahjoub's blood pressure was 162/110 and he weighs 145 lbs (down from 220) and Jaballah has lost about 45 pounds.
The doctor said both require daily monitoring of blood pressure and because of hypertension are at risk of sudden stroke. Mahjoub requires an ultrasound to look at kidney and prostate. "We were told we are in a bad situation," Mahjoub said. Both he and Jaballah have blood in their urine; Mahjoub also has sugar in his urine and has soreness in his kidneys.
The following day, the men requested monitoring of their blood pressure, and were asked by the so-called head of health care, "Will you go over without a supervisor?" Jaballah replied that this was not her business, that her business was to check his blood pressure. Again she asked him if he would go over without a supervisor. He said no, so there was no blood pressure taken. There was no offer to take the blood pressure in the living unit.
On Friday, the men were told that they would be accompanied by a supervisor to the administration building to have their blood pressure monitored. Asked whether this was a permanent arrangement (a key demand of the hunger strike is to have a supervisor for any movement throughout the facility), they were given a written response that essentially stated the supervision was temporary: "Given the duration of your hunger strike it is to be considered extenuating circumstances. In order to ensure your health and well-being (sic) extraordinary measures were implemented."
The men have requested a supervisor to take them to the administration building for family visits, health care, media visits, and any other requirements. They want a supervisor because they fear harassment from and false accusations by guards. The administration has firmly rejected this simple request, and appears ready to let the men die rather than fix the problem.
OPEN LETTER FROM MAHMOUD JABALLAH, MOHAMMAD MAHJOUB, HASSAN ALMREI ON DAY 80 OF HUNGER STRIKE
We are the undersigned Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, and Hassan Almrei. We have been imprisoned over six years under so-called security certificates. We have never been convicted of any crime, much less charged with one. We have been told we are dangerous to the security of Canada and a threat to the public, without even seeing anything in evidence against us. Neither our lawyers or ourselves have the right to challenge or see what the government claims they have on us. These rights everybody takes for granted in this country or in any country that applies the rule of democracy.
Since our arrests we have been thrown in solitary confinement for years without any explanation, surviving in a small, concrete, frozen cell. We faced many difficulties in practicing our religion, or contacting our families, and countless nights without sleeping from hunger.
On April 24, 2006, the government decided to move us to a new facility after the provincial government's refusal to keep us in their detention centre. From that time we are detained in a small trailer parked in a parking lot on the grounds of Millhaven.
Shortly after our arrival here we realized that we are in a no-man's land and everybody applies his own rules: guards, supervisors, directors. We don't know whose rules we should follow. Policies change by the shift. We thought our life at this facility will be better than Toronto West Detention Centre. Were we wrong in our thoughts?
This is all humiliating and insulting not only for ourselves but to our families as well.
We requested repeatedly that these unjust treatments be changed and to be treated as adult human beings. When all our requests and complaints have been rejected by the director to cover up her staff's wrongdoing, we decided to engage in a hunger strike, which is the last option for us to change our conditions.
We are on a hunger strike for the last 80 days for Mahjoub, 69 days for Jaballah and Almrei. Until recently, we have never seen a doctor to treat us, not even one single time, even though we requested daily to see a doctor and get treatment. We would only see a nurse behind the closed door through a small glass window. We are unable to get to the so-called treatment room because of our fear of our own safety from the guards because we have been abused by them many times.
There were many many media reports about our hunger strike and 2 visits by Members of Parliament and several questions put to the government in the House of Commons about our conditions and hunger strike. Only then did the CBSA [Canadian Border Services Agency] decide to send a doctor to see us on February 7, 2007, for the first time, and order a supervisor to escort us to the treatment room to see a doctor and a nurse. We have requested a supervisor to escort us any time we have to move in the facility. The supervisor is only now being provided temporarily. This is not a solution.
We feel some small changes have happened here because of pressure from the public and MPs. But we still need your help to fix the big problems here.
We may not have much more time, so please keep up the pressure in standing for our rights.
We thank you for all of your kindness and support. May Allah bless you and reward you for all of your efforts.
Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub, Hassan Almrei.
(letter dictated by phone to the Campaign to Stop Secret trials in Canada)
CHOC-WELL DAY GETS SAUCED!
In response to Stockwell Day's obsession with seeing a bottle of chocolate sauce in the Gitmo North fridge, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms got a good soaking with chocolate sauce in demonstrations last Wednesday that took place in Toronto, Montreal, and Owen Sound.
In Toronto, about two dozen people and over a dozen police were on hand to watch as a "detainee" in orange jumpsuit and black hood lay on the cold pavement in front of CSIS, jail bars over him, surrounded by over a dozen international treaties and covenants that Canada violates through its use of security certificates and wretched detention conditions for those behind bars. Thanks to the theatrical talents of David Heap (playing the detainee) and Maggie Panter (who deftly held a large Stockwell Head with two bubble comments: "Hi, I'm Stockwell Day" and "Let them Eat Chocolate Sauce!")
The public safety minister proceeded to grab covenants and treaties, throw them to the ground, and illustrate the disrespect he holds for such rights-guaranteeing covenants by pouring chocolate sauce over them (which continued to flow despite frigid cold temperatures).
Day chuckled with an evil grin as he continued to pour chocolate sauce. Police meanwhile did nothing but sit in their vehicles with the engines idling, contributing to global warming.
Desperate to get Choc-well to have a change of heart, the group began singing songs inspired by the Wizard of Oz but equally applicable to the politicians and CSIS agents responsible for secret trials: "If I Only Had a Brain...A Heart" and "Somewhere Over the CSIS"). At first Choc-well tried to ignore the songs, but it soon became too much, and before long, Choc-Well began dancing and singing too, a transformation of the heart.
The group also traced the roots of Day's chocolate obsession to his days running for the Canadian Reform Alliance Party (CRAP) and a trip to Kitchener. At the time, a local activist had hoped to "pie" Mr. Day but, finding the bakery closed, was only able to find a carton of chocolate milk, the contents of which he proceeded to launch at Day.
Photos from Toronto action at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rchoephoto/sets/72157594523726886/
Also available at http://www.erelda.ca/photo/HungerstrikeDemoGallery/index
Meanwhile, tireless campaigners Liz and Barney Barningham drove through white-out conditions in some of the worst snowstorms the Grey-Bruce area has seen to deliver the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to their local Tory MP, Larry Miller, where it was promptly splattered with chocolate sauce. It garnered front page coverage in the Owen Sound Sun Times.
A similar event took place in Montreal, where a group crashed a press conference of Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, pouring chocolate sauce over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the UN Convention Against Torture.
"[They have a] refrigerator stocked with a variety of juices, soy milk, honey and chocolate sauce," Day had told Canadian Press in response to concerns about the hunger strikers. The protesters' response -- pouring chocolate over so-called guaranteed legal protections -- made clear that sugary flavoring is not an appropriate substitute for basic dignity and simple respect of life.
Meanwhile, David Heap wrote to Harper, "Earlier this week Health Canada published the updated Canada Food Guide. Since you and Mr. Day are both no doubt very busy, I have taken the time to read it for you and would like to convey the following important information: these guidelines do not now (nor have they ever) included chocolate sauce (with or without honey) as an adequate nutritional supplement for people who are not eating solid food. I suggest that Mr. Day review his recent nutritional pronouncements in the light of this important government publication."
Day has since been unavailable for comment.
LINKS TO NEW DOCUMENTS
1. Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration discussion, http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/cimmproceedings.htm
2. Bill Siksay editorial, Kingston Whig-Standard, http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/siksayeditorial.htm
3. Amnesty International editorial, Ottawa Citizen, http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/amnestyed.htm
Stay in touch: Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.homesnotbombs.ca
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