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Bush's concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay
Caged at Camp X-Ray

By Nicole Colson | March 8, 2002 | Page 2

"HUMANE AND appropriate." That's how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld describes the treatment of prisoners from the U.S. war on Afghanistan who are being kept in cages in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But Shafiq Rasul's lawyer calls it "horse-trading with human beings."

Rasul is one of the 300 people who have been held at Camp X-Ray for weeks, kept in 6-by-8-foot chain-link cages that are exposed to the elements. U.S. officials claim that the prisoners are dangerous terrorists with connections to the September 11 attacks--though they were forced to admit last month that they have yet to come up with a shred of evidence to prove this against any of the 300.

Rasul's family in Britain hasn't been allowed to visit him, but they recently saw video footage of him--shackled to a stretcher. They say that Shafiq, who is over six feet tall, has lost more than 40 pounds--putting his weight at about 110 pounds.

Shafiq recently wrote a letter to his family that detailed the horrors of Camp X-Ray. "At the time of writing his letter to us, he indicates that he did not then know where he was and was not being told, but stated that he could not 'take the heat' and that 'the food they give us is terrible,'" said his brother Habib.

According to BBC journalist Richard Lister, who visited the camp in early February, prisoners are subjected to degrading conditions on a daily basis. "By the end of the day, there is a faint smell of sewage and chemicals that drifts from the prison--all the prisoners have waste buckets in their cells," Lister reported.

These barbaric conditions sparked a hunger strike last week, after one of the prisoners made a turban--worn by Muslims for religious purposes--from a bedsheet and security forces forcibly removed it. Unbelievably, military spokespeople claim that allowing prisoners to wear turbans is a security threat.

Religious practices like the wearing of turbans are supposed to be protected under the Geneva convention governing the treatment of prisoners of war. But of course, the U.S. government still won't fully admit that the detainees are "prisoners of war."

After several days, military officials were forced to retreat and allow prisoners to wear turbans--though they can still be inspected at any time at the whim of guards.

Beyond the degrading living conditions, the Guantánamo prisoners face an uncertain future.

Last week, British newspapers reported that the U.S. had failed to find enough evidence to charge even one prisoner of war--either among the 300 detainees at Guantánamo Bay or the 216 others held in Afghanistan.

Still, declared Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke, the U.S. is "in no hurry" to file charges. This means the prisoners will endure miserable conditions until the Bush gang decides what to do with them.

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