Support Canada's Secret Trial Detainees, Three of Whom Have Been on Hunger Strike For Over a Month at Guantanamo Bay North in Kingston, Ontario
Three Detainees Report Being Very Weak, Suffering From Breathing Problems, Chest Pains
No Doctor has seen them yet
Media Access Remains Blocked (Why haven't the media been seeking to bring down the iron curtain that surrounds the detainees?)
June 22, 2006
THE HUNGER STRIKE
Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohammad Mahjoub have been on hunger strike since May 23, with Hassan Almrei hunger striking an additional ten days. Mahjoub (held since June, 2000), Jaballah (held seven months in 1999, and since August, 2001) and Almrei (held since October 2001) are feeling not only the effects of the hunger strike, but are also sweltering in a retrofitted classroom portable which has no air conditioning. Two nights ago, Mr. Jaballah was removed from his cell at 2 am with breathing problems, and did not see a nurse until almost six hours later.
Two simple demands remain at the core of the hunger strike.
1. The men want access to a canteen (which holds snack foods), much as they had access to at Metro West Detention Centre. The government claims concerns over who would handle the detainees' money have prevented them from setting this up. The men have put forward a half dozen workable solutions, but the federal government refuses to budge. Because their daily meals do not provide enough food, the men need the canteen to stave off hunger pangs.
2. Proper phone access. At Metro West, the men could dial out and speak with anyone they chose to from early morning until early evening. Currently, the men are allowed three 20 minute calls per day. However, they must put in a written request an hour before each call is made. If, for example, they call their lawyer, and are informed s/he won't be back for ten minutes, they cannot call ten minutes later. They must put in another phone request, wait an hour, and then hope the lawyer will be there. The limited phone access sharply curtails their ability to maintain contact with their families as well.
Representatives of the Canadian Border Services Agency, which runs Guantanamo North, have assured campaign members that the men's health is their top priority (even though they are trying to deport them to torture). But to allow human beings to go over a month without nutrition is simply heartless. For the federal government to refuse to fix these simple problems, especially after the light that was shone on security certificates over the past month with the Supreme Court hearings, is shameful. Please write and call the appropriate ministers and bureaucrats below and express in polite but strong terms that these men's lives are in danger and they need a solution now.
The federal government has ordered that the men not have ANY access to the media for the indefinite future. Contact your media representatives and demand that they take action to break through the iron curtain that's been drawn up around the new facility.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Letters are urgently needed to the following individuals. Feel free to change the sample letters by adding something that personalizes it for you, but please remain respectful and polite, as our efforts ultimately reflect on the detainees.
2. Write and Call Stockwell Day, Minister responsible for the Canadian Border Services Agency (which runs the KIHC).
Stockwell Day, MP,
House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Phone: (613) 995-1702
Fax: (613) 995.1154
2. Claudette Deschenes
VP, Enforcement, CBSA
Phone (613) 952-2531
Fax (613) 952-2622
3. Write a support card to the detainees (let us know at email@example.com if you have so we can monitor if mail is getting through): Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, and Hassan Almrei can be reached:
Kingston Immigration Holding Centre
c/o CSC RHQ Ontario Region
440 King Street West
PO Box 1174
Kingston, Ontario K7L 4Y8
4. Join the National Day to Close Guantanamo North on Monday, June 26 (International Day Against Torture). Consider organizing a vigil in your community at the office of an MP, CSIS, RCMP, or federal building. in Toronto, there will be a noon-hour vigil at the Federal Court, 361 University Ave.
Canadian Border Services Agency
Dear Ms. Deschenes,
I am writing to support the demands of the detainees currently on hunger strike over one month under your watch. As you must know, the men were promised superior conditions to those they faced at the Metro West Detention Centre, but those promises have yet to become a reality.
As you may recall, the previous government forced two of the detainees, Mohammad Mahjoub and Hassan Almrei, to hunger strike dangerously long periods last fall (79 and 73 days, respectively) before any action was taken to meet what were, then as now, reasonable requests. Already the detainees are experiencxing ill health and weakness, and the lack of long-promised air conditooning is not helping.
I'm asking that you take the steps necessary to meet the very reasonable demands of these gentlemen so that the health-threatening hunger strike which they have undertaken may be brought to an end. I am also asking that you drop the ban on media access which has been imposed on these men. Denying media access may be the policy of the Harper government, but such partisanship has no place in the running of the KIHC.
The requests of Mssrs. Jaballah, Mahjoub, and Almrei are eminently reasonable. The refusal to fix the issues of the canteen and phone access is an embarassment. Both the detainees and their loved ones have been through years of pain and distress. The least you can do is accommodate these demands so that they are not forced to experience even more stress and hardship.
I look forward to the immediate resolution of this problem.
Stockwell Day, MP
Minister Responsible for the Canadian Border Services Agency
Dear Mr. Day,
I am writing to demand that you intervene immediately to meet the reasonable demands of Canada's secret trial detainees who have been on hunger strike over one month at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre. As you may recall, the previous government forced two of the detainees, Mohammad Mahjoub and Hassan Almrei, to hunger strike dangerously long periods last fall (79 and 73 days, respectively) before any action was taken to meet what were, then as now, reasonable requests. Already the detainees are experiencing ill health and weakness.
People do not forgo food unless there are good reasons to do so, and these men obviously have cause to go to these extreme lengths to get you to negotiate with them in good faith.
As if this were not enough, the men are also being denied access to media to discuss their very legitimate complaints.
Your agency has claimed the new facility will present better conditions for the detainees, yet this is simply not the case. I again urge you to intervene immediately and take steps necessary to prevent a further deterioration in the health of the detainees and, by extension, that of their loved ones, whose stress during this time remains extremely high.
I look forward to your immediate action to resolve this crisis.
earlier background info:
THE HUNGER STRIKE
Monday, May 29 marks one week of a collective hunger strike for secret trial detainees Mohammad Mahjoub (held since June, 2000), Mahmoud Jaballah (held seven months in 1999, and since August, 2001) and Hassan Almrei (held since October 2001). Mr. Almrei began a hunger strike two weeks earlier.
They are protesting their conditions of detention and demanding some very reasonable adjustments to improve their quality of life. Please support them by writing to the director of the new facility and to Stockwell Day, the minister responsible for their ongoing detention and impending deportation to torture (see sample letters below).
A POLITICAL GAME
In a few short weeks, what has been called Canada's "dirty little secret" -- the shame of secret hearings, indefinite detention without charge or trial, upwards of four years of detention in unheated solitary confinement cells, deportation to torture -- will be in the national spotlight as the Supreme Court of Canada hears three days of arguments about the fundamentally flawed and unfair security certificate regime. Like the torturer who cleans up the dungeon before the United Nations inspectors come calling, the federal government has been involved in a flurry of activity to pretty up the disgusting mess they've been creating for years at the expense of the detainees and their families.
Part of their "prettying up" act is the transfer of the secret trial detainees to the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (KIHC), dubbed Guantanamo Bay North. The move was announced last fall in the middle of a bail hearing for one of the detainees. The message could not have been clearer: rather than release the men on bail, give them a nicer cage, and continue the shameful process of jailing people on secret evidence under security certificates.
Given that a key part of the Supreme Court challenge raised by the detainees concerns conditions of detention, the federal government is doing its best to create the perception that the KIHC is paradise on earth after the miserable conditions experienced by the detainees in provincial remand centres. Indeed, so concerned are they that the Supreme Court will find out what's really been going on, the federal government had the men transferred to the KIHC from Toronto the day before a member of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court stating that KIHC was up and running and a joy for all.
But all is not peaches and cream. It is clear that the facility was not ready for the men to be transferred there. Policies are being made up on the fly; the facilities are not complete; the stress experienced by the men and their families is heightened.
And the men have been told in no uncertain terms: they will not be allowed access to the media for the immediate future (no doubt since media coverage would blow the cover the government is trying to keep on Guantanamo Bay North before the June hearings at the Supreme Court).
A HOT, STUFFY, CLASSROOM PORTABLE
The $3.2 million KIHC facility, a glorified classroom portable whose floors squeak every time the detainees move, does not have curtains on the windows, so floodlights at Millhaven keep them up nights. There is no air conditioning for the men, only for the equipment room. They are restricted to one hour of phone calls per day (which, for families like the Jaballahs, which include six children, Mr. Jaballah's wife, his mother-in-law, and son-in law, not to mention friends with whom he is normally in contact, severely limits contact). Unlike Metro West, where calls could be made throughout the day, the detainees must put in a written request for a guard to dial numbers for them, and must wait at least an hour for the call to be dialed. Concerns have also been expressed about the extent of monitoring of phone calls (which violates solicitor-client privilege in the case of phone calls to lawyers).
The outdoor area is a small concrete block devoid of trees or grass, with nothing to sit on. They still do not have access to a canteen, as they did at Metro West, and none is likely to appear for at least another month. Food portions are small and inadequate; their cells are considerably smaller than they were at Metro West.
Unlike those convicted of serious crimes -- who have access to weekend-long trailer visits with family members -- the secret trial detainees, never convicted of, much less charged, with a single offence, are not allowed such visits. Rather, they are allowed two hour visits in the morning, followed by a lunch during which family members must leave the grounds and are stranded in the tiny hamlet of Bath, where there are no facilities for families to eat and rest. All are subjected to the humiliation of high-tech security once again before an afternoon visit. But since the families live in Toronto, and the cost and time involved in getting to Kingston is proving prohibitive and stressful, access is far less than it was at Metro West.
Immediate demands at the KIHC include: proper access to an adequately stocked, reasonably priced canteen; better protocol around visits, including allowing family to stay on site during the lunch hour; proper amounts of nutritional, fresh food; better and less restricted access to the phone; and access to the grassy exercise area at Millhaven.
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Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.homesnotbombs.ca