February 4 Update and Call for Action
(In this message are a callout for vigils on Wednesday, February 7, and an update as of the morning of February 4 on the hunger strike and events of the past two days)
1. CALL FOR "LET THEM EAT CHOCOLATE SAUCE" ACTIONS WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7
2. LATEST EVENTS (Families Face Slammed Door at Prime Minister's Office; Outside Physician Rejected by Kingston Immigration Holding Centre)
3. BACKGROUND. Documents, letters, statements, and more on the hunger strike are all available at http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/gitmonorthstrike.htm
1. URGENT CALL TO ACTION FOR WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7
The hunger strike at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (KIHC) continues with no end in sight. The government of Canada is refusing to negotiate. As Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, and Hassan Almrei try to hang on (today is day 72 for Mahjoub, 61 for Jaballah and Almrei), Public Sadism Minister Stockwell Day continues to spew an atrocious string of lies about the men and their circumstances, going so far as to state to Canadian Press, "[They have a] refrigerator stocked with a variety of juices, soy milk, honey and chocolate sauce."
Well then, it must be okay to deny these men their Charter rights, to deny them their rights under the Convention Against Torture, under countless other covenants and treaties Canada has signed, because, after all, their unit at Guantanamo Bay North has chocolate sauce in the refrigerator!
The Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada is calling for nationwide vigils and pourings of chocolate sauce on Wednesday, February 7, which will be day 75 of Mohammad Mahjoub's hunger strike, day 64 for Hassan Almrei and Mahmoud Jaballah. In Toronto, from 5-6 pm, we plan to pour chocolate sauce over a copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in front of the Toronto offices of the organization that regularly tramples those rights and freedoms, CSIS. We will also pour chocolate sauce over the Convention Against Torture, also being violated in the cases of Canada's secret trial detainees.
(If you have issues with chocolate sauce and prefer another form of public vigil, perhaps with maple syrup, or without any sauces, condiments, or juices, that's fine too. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can do something publicly o day 75 of the hunger strike)
Please join us in this display of outrage over the callousness and reckless disregard for human life that is being shown by the Canadian government towards Canada's secret trial detainees. And keep calling the government (see update below). They ARE feeling the pressure.
Whether you can join a vigil or not, please contact Stockwell Day's office and keep up the pressure.
TWO THINGS THAT NEED TO BE DONE IMMEDIATELY
1. On Tuesday, two separate House committees will consider emergency resolutions calling for the government to recognize the emergency nature of the crisis and to immediately appoint the Office of the Correctional Investigator to assume jurisdiction over the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre to investigate current and ongoing complaints of those currently on hunger strike, and prepare an independent set of recommendations for resolution of grievances.
One is the Standing Committee on Public Safety (whose members are Garry Breitkreuz, Joe Comartin, Roy Cullen, Sue Barnes, Gord Brown, Raymond Chan, Irwin Cotler, Laurie Hawn, Dave MacKenzie, Serge Ménard, Maria Mourani, and Rick Norlock).
The other is the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (whose members are Norman Doyle, Meili Faille, Andrew Telegdi, Omar Alghabra, Barry Devolin, Raymond Gravel, Nina Grewal, Rahim Jaffer, Jim Karygiannis, Ed Komarnicki, Bill Siksay, Blair Wilson)
Please call the MPs and urge them to support the resolution on resolving the hunger strike that will be introduced. If one of these MPs represents your riding, please let them know that too. If you do not know how to contact your MP, go to http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/house/mpscur.asp?Language=E¶m=c
Find the name of the MP, and the contact information will follow.
2. Call Stockwell Day's office and send him an email with the same message: resolve the hunger strike, appoint the Correctional Investigator
Phone: (613) 995-1702
Fax: (613) 995.1154
3. Call Stephen Harper with the same message: resolve the hunger strike, appoint the Correctional Investigator
Hunger Strike Update February 4, 2007
A. Harper, Day Refuse to Meet with Families in Ottawa
B. Independent Physician Denied Entry to Guantanamo North
C. Harper checking with lawyers over lawsuits?
D. Why the Red Cross is an Inappropriate Oversight Body
E. KIHC Directors Finally "Meet" with the Men on Day 70 of Hunger Strike
F. "These Men are Being Tortured."
a. Harper, Day Refuse to Meet with Families in Ottawa
At the conclusion of a well-attended press conference during which friends and family of Canada's secret trial detainees asked whether the government was willing to let their loved ones die, the answer came back to them in the form of a slammed door and a refusal to meet from prime minister Stephen Harper and "public safety" minister Stockwell Day.
About 40 people quickly came together for a rally on Parliament Hill and a march to the prime minister's office, where they were met by frowning security and, eventually, a spokesperson who said he could not do anything.
Mona Elfouli eloquently pleaded the case of her husband, Mohammad Mahjoub, saying this was the last time she wants to be in Ottawa, because she wants her husband released and an end to the torture of the secret trial process that has plagued their family since June, 2000.
Ahmad Jaballah told reporters that the men are being treated like caged animals and, indeed, that was exactly how Stockwell Day treated them when he visited the facility almost two weeks ago, peering in at them but refusing to speak with them or hear their concerns.
Afnan Jaballah, 13, the youngest daughter of Mr. Jaballah and Husnah Al-Mashtouli, held a picture of her dad. She talked about how difficult it has been for her and her siblings to not have their dad with them, how much she wants him home, how unfair it is to keep him in jail because of secrets.
While reporters seemed interested in minute details of the conditions at KIHC, they were reminded that the men do not want fresh newspaper clippings to line the bottom of their cage; it is time to open the doors of that cage and end the psychological torture of indefinite detention and deportation to torture.
Strong statements were also issued by Montreal nurse Scott Weinstein, the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, and NDP MP Bill Siksay, who has worked tirelessly on this issue. For statements at the press conference see http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/statements.htm
Media coverage was widespread (though very belated, finally covering the issue after 70 days of hunger striking!). A good chunk of the press conference was carried live on CBC Newsworld, and dozens of newspapers, radio stations, and TV news shows carried the story all day Friday and Saturday.
Meanwhile, former Solicitor General Warren Allmand called for the appointment of the Office of the Correctional Investigator, an independent ombudsperson, to help resolve the crisis.
b. Independent Physician Denied Entry to Guantanamo North
Today Mohammad Mahjoub reports trouble breathing, chest pain (as if something hard is pushing down on his chest), and pain in his left arm. This has happened to him repeatedly throughout the hunger strike. However, the nurse who "presents" daily did not check his pulse, blood pressure, blood levels, or any other vital sign.
Since day 1 of the hunger strike, medical staff at Canada's Guantanamo Bay have refused to monitor the vital signs of the men, a serious breach of medical ethics. Despite repeated requests for health care, the men are told they can only receive such care if they move to another part of the facility. Known as the "treatment room," there is nothing particularly special about it. All it has, in essence, are the portable tools of the trade that are easily enough carried to the cells or living unit of the men.
The men are happy to go to the "treatment room" if provided with a supervisor (to protect against false allegations being made against them by the guards). A supervisor is never provided, so medical care is denied, with medical staff claiming they do not have the "consent" of the detainees to treat them. This is Orwellian nonsense. Daily, the men have made written and oral requests for health care, but it is denied until they stop insisting on their right not to be falsely accused (not too much to ask, given that their whole 6.5 years of incarceration is based on false allegations!).
The promise of medical care if the men comply with inexplicably petty prison rules is unconscionable, especially when such care was provided in the living unit before September. It is punitive, and reckless.
A week ago, Mahmoud Jaballah suffered a severe medical emergency during which he was rendered unconscious. He woke up in another section of the KIHC, screaming in pain. He was eventually dumped back in his cell, with no tests, no follow-up.
In response to this denial of care, supporters contacted a Kingston physician who has been security cleared for other federal penitentiaries in the area. This doctor was prepared to go into the living unit, provide an assessment, and make recommendations. A letter rejecting the doctor was given to Mohammad Mahjoub on Thursday. In it, the so-called head of "health care" at Millhaven wrote that the proposed doctor was not to their mind cleared for penitentiaries and that health care would be provided when they "consented" to it. (See reference above to the Orwellian nature of consent)
c. Harper checking with lawyers over lawsuits?
One has to wonder if the federal government is consulting its lawyers with respect to possible lawsuits over charges of criminal negligence causing death. "The government is pursuing its actions according to law," Harper said. "We are reassuring ourselves on a constant basis that these people are being treated in a humane manner." They are not, however, reassuring "these people" and their families!!!
d. Why the Red Cross is an Inappropriate Oversight Body
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day claims everything's fine because the Red Cross has toured the facility. As nurse Scott Weinstein pointed out Friday in Ottawa, "in order for the Red Cross to gain access, they must make an agreement with the government to keep their findings confidential between them and the government. This agreement to keep their findings secret, which the Red Cross has also done with their access to prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prisons, means the Red Cross is not able to be a public and accountable advocate and monitor for the prisoners. We are demanding an open, public and accountable monitoring of the prisoners. We agree with the call of former Solicitor General Warren Allmand to appoint the Office of the Correctional Investigator to assume jurisdiction. The detainees are the only three people in federal penitentiaries without access to an independent ombudsperson.
e. KIHC Directors Finally "Meet" with the Men on Day 70 of Hunger Strike
On Day 70 of the hunger strike, the two directors of the Gitmo North finally condescended to visit the men to find out what is going on (this after much letter writing and phone calling in the previous weeks reminding them of the urgency of communication!). But the visit was a pathetic exercise. After all the suffering the men have gone through, they were only asked, "So, what are your demands?"
Mohammad Mahjoub asked if the directors had heard from their families, lawyers, and the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, all of whom have been writing and calling about the demands for weeks on end. When they said yes, he asked why they had to ask the detainees about the demands when the former group of people had already been making this clear.
Mahmoud Jaballah said that the demands had been placed on their desks 70 days ago, and that the men had already received a written rejection of all of them. He asked if there was anything new for them to offer.
There was nothing new to offer.
Hence, there was nothing to meet about. In the Orwellian way in which Gitmo North operates, the meeting will no doubt be referred to by the staff as "a refusal to talk" in the same manner that their urgent requests for health care are being translated into "a refusal to consent to health care."
f. "These Men are Being Tortured."
(From the press conference statement of the Campaign to Stop Secret trials in Canada)
The men are constantly asked: why a hunger strike? Aren't you only hurting yourselves? The answer to that is obvious. The hurting began long ago. These men have already been deeply hurt by secrecy, by lies, by unfounded and vicious allegations of so-called security agencies whose word can hardly be believed, especially in light of the Arar Inquiry, by the frustration of being allowed no meaningful opportunity to clear their names, by indefinite detention, by the threat of deportation to torture. This has gone on for between 5.5 and 6.5 years, and there is no end in sight.
Torture experts have concluded that the ultimate sign of successful, psychological torture is to have the subject of that torture become self-abusing. If we can define two months of no food as self-abusing, then it is clear that this government's effort to torture these innocent men, whether in Syria and Egypt, or here at home, has been successful.
All this for individuals who have never been charged with, much less convicted of, a single offence.
We want an answer from the government today. Are we to assume that you are hoping these three men will die? Is this so that you can finally sweep under the rug the collateral damage of a system of judicial inquisition that, through public exposure, has embarrassed Canada on the world stage and become the object of intense criticism from the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other human rights bodies? Unless you can show us positive, concrete steps to immediately resolve the life and death situation of the hunger strike, to stop blocking efforts to release these men to their friends and families, and to end the process to deport them to torture, we cannot assume otherwise." (full statement at http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/statements.htm)