Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Conservatives ignoring hunger strike at 'Guantanamo North'

we critisize the u.s. and other countries for holding detainees without knowing the evidence or not investigating allegations. and yet, we are doing the same thing here in Canada. i thought as a country, we were much better than this!

Conservatives ignoring hunger strike at 'Guantanamo North"

The Minister seems to be prepared to let these men die in his custody, without having been charged, or convicted, and not knowing the evidence against them, and without resolution to their concerns.

Ottawa (13 Feb. 2007) - The hunger strike by three security certificate detainees at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (KIHC), dubbed 'Guantanamo North' by critics, is reaching a crisis but the Harper Conservative government appear intent on ignoring the threat to the men's lives.

The three men - Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei have all been more than 70 days on a hunger strike with Mahjoub marking his 80th day.

All three have been on a juice and water fast, with Mahjoub now refraining from juice. 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.

Mr Jaballah, Mr. Almrei, and Mr. Mahjoub have been detained for over six years without charge or conviction, under the provision of security certificates.

NDP Motion

In an attempt to resolve the crisis NDP Citizenship and Immigration Critic Bill Siksay, MP for Burnaby-Douglas, tabled a motion at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. The motion called on the government to have the Office of the Correctional Investigator assume jurisdiction over the KIHC so that the men's grievances can be investigated and resolved.

Only the Conservative members of the committee voted against the motion.

"Conservative Minister Stockwell Day must immediately appoint the Correctional Investigator of Canada as an ombudsperson to speak to the men since Mr. Day himself has not done so," said Bill Siksay. "Their concerns must be investigated now and an urgent resolution to their hunger strike found.

"The men require urgent medical attention," said Siksay. "Medical experts assert that hunger strikers should be monitored daily after day 10 and that after day 49 serious health issues like heart failure, renal failure, heart arrhythmia arise.

"Given the dangerous stage of this hunger strike Minister Day must ensure daily health monitoring and a full examination by an independent doctor in their living quarters," said Siksay. "The Minister seems to be prepared to let these men die in his custody, without having been charged, or convicted, and not knowing the evidence against them, and without resolution to their concerns."

On February 12th a delegation comprised of most of the members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration toured Guantanamo North and met with the three men.

Growing protest to the Harper government's inaction

Indications are that the offices of Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day have received a large number of calls and letters from across the country.

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."

There are some indications that some of the complaints the hunger strikers had are being slowly addressed. Unfortunately, to date, they appear to be at best minor cosmetic changes.