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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

Cybercast News Service June 26, 2008

Amnesty International Tours Gitmo Cell as Proof of US Torture

By Penny Starr and Alison Aldrich

(CNSNews.com) - Amnesty International USA brought a life-sized replica of a Guantanamo Bay prison cell to Washington on Wednesday. But amenities provided to prisoners -- bedding, toiletries, a copy of the Koran and three meals a day -- were nowhere mentioned.

AIUSA says it timed its Washington, D.C., stop -- part of a national tour -- to coincide with a House Judiciary subcommittee's hearing on harsh interrogation techniques.

Dressed in orange jump suits, "chained" together and holding placards that spelled out "Stop Torture," AIUSA members and other activists staged a rally at the foot of the Washington Monument.

"The purpose is to try to bring to the American people a little bit of the reality of what the United States government is doing to human beings in Guantanamo," Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA, told Cybercast News Service.

"We want people to actually see what's being done in their name, to get a sense of what it means to be held for not just one year or two years, but as many as six years in a box," he said, "where you can't move around, where you're almost totally isolated, where you're put in stress positions that are extremely painful, when you're humiliated like that, when you haven't been charged or tried for any crime."

Cox's description of Guantanamo, however, contrasts with other reports of the facilities where individuals suspected of terrorist training and activities have been held since it opened in 2002.

According to Globalsecurity.org, an online security and military database, detainees at Guantanamo are given basic supplies, such as clothing, towels, sheets, blankets, soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste.

They also are given a copy of the Koran and three "culturally appropriate" meals. Prayer rugs also are distributed, and a recorded call to prayer is broadcast five times a day.

But Cox told Cybercast News Service that amenities, which aren't part of the AIUSA cell display, do not matter.

"People need to get this point: If you were locked in your bathroom for 23 out of 24 hours a day when you had not been charged with any crime, and you didn't know how many years you were going to be held there, it wouldn't matter if you were getting some medical care, whether you were getting three meals a day," Cox said.

"The horror of it is not knowing what's going to happen to you," he added. "No due process. No fair trial. You can be held indefinitely even though you're claiming that you're completely innocent."

Organizers are encouraging people to visit the cell, which will be on the Mall through Sunday, and record a 30-second "reaction" video that will be posted on YouTube.

James Yee is a former U.S. army chaplain who was stationed at Guantanamo in 2002 and 2003. He was charged with espionage and other crimes when a list of detainees and interrogators was found by U.S. Customs as he returned to the United States. He was jailed for 76 days before the charges were dropped.

When asked by Cybercast News Service about the "comfort items" given to prisoners, including prayer rugs and a copy of the Koran, Yee, who converted to Islam in 1990, said he thinks religion is "used as a weapon" against detainees.

"I was instrumental in providing some of the religious accommodations to prisoners; however, it's clear, very clear, from my observations and from my experience that religion was actually being used as a weapon against these individuals held in Guantanamo," Yee said.

"And because each and every prisoner was Muslim, it was the use of Islamic religion against these prisoners to break them in the course of detaining them or in the course of interrogating them," he added. "And that was done in many, many different ways, to which I objected, and then landed me in jail."

The cell on display on the Mall is 10 feet long, 7 feet wide and 8 feet tall. It has a toilet, a sleeping bunk and a small window. The AIUSA says it is an example of a Camp 5 cell.

According to Globalsecurity.org, however, Camp 5 is a permanent two-story maximum security complex with cells that measure 10 feet by 20 feet and have a toilet, bed and a sink.

"Those that are considered the most dangerous and those deemed to have the most valuable security are housed there," the Web site reports.

The Web site also reports that there are a variety of other quarters. Detainees who cooperate with staff and help to develop intelligence are relocated to less restrictive quarters, the Web site reports.

In Camp 1, detainees wear tan uniforms instead of orange ones, and social interaction is allowed, including pairs who can kick soccer balls around. Thirty one percent of detainees at Guantanamo are in Camp 1.

Camp 4 has dormitories that hold up to 20 detainees and detainees are allowed to eat, sleep and pray together. They wear white uniforms, have lockers for personal belongings and common recreation areas for games and team sports. Chess, checkers and cards, the Web site says, are the most requested games.

Yee, however, told Cybercast News Service that he thinks something more sinister is going on at Guantanamo.

"I would say one of the main reasons behind the creation of Guantanamo of the current administration was just an experiment for the current president to see exactly how far he can grasp authority under what he could call constitutional war powers to see if he as a president could legally, under our constitution, take someone and strip them of all of their rights, all of their legal rights, all of their human rights, and lock them away indefinitely in a legal black hole," said Yee, who also is a pledged Obama delegate for the 2008 Democratic Party convention.

Copyright 2008, Cybercast News Service