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Moscow officials visit Gitmo in attempt to free Russian detainee from ‘legal vacuum’

​A delegation of Russia’s high-ranking diplomats and representatives of the judicial system has in an unprecedented move visited the Guantanamo Bay prison, as Moscow has stepped up efforts to secure release of the only Russian national there.

The Russian VIP visitors were toured around the facility, where  they spent several hours Friday, speaking to senior  representatives of the Department of Defense and the commanders  of the detention center. The central part of their visit was an  hour-long conversation with the Russian national, Ravil Mingazov,  who has been detained for over a decade at Guantanamo without  charge.
Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights,  Konstantin Dolgov, said the delegation’s basic aim was to ensure  Mingazov’s “speediest possible release.”
His presence at the Guantanamo prison by itself is violation  of his basic rights, because all of the detainees are kept there  in the so-called legal vacuum,” Dolgov told RT by telephone.   “There is no due process, no proper investigation. They are  denied access to fair justice.
The human rights commissioner said he assumed the prospects for  achieving Mingazov’s release were good.
He said the detainee asked for books and newspapers in Russian.  Dolgov, however, would not go into detail about what Mingazov  said, when asked to describe conditions at the center. The  diplomat only said the delegation was analyzing the information  it received.
The information on life inside Guantanamo keeps flowing in from  the lawyers of the 155 detainees, still held at the facility.  According to attorneys, the number of hunger strikers at the  prison has gone up in the past month, and now stands at 33.
The US military who run the facility have refused to release any  updates, as it did during the massive months-long hunger strike  last year.
JTF-Guantanamo allows detainees to peacefully protest, but  will not further their protests by reporting the numbers to the  public,” RT was informed this week in an e-mail from John  Filostrat, US Navy Commander and Director of Public Affairs.   “The release of this information detracts from the more  important issues, which are the welfare of detainees and the  safety and security of our troops… We closely monitor any changes  in detainee health status but we will not report statistics on  individual protests.”Clive Stafford Smith, who advocates for several of the detainees,  claims the US military is using some painful tactics to try and  break up the hunger strike.

If a prisoner from Camp 6, which is the least bad camp, goes  on hunger strike, they automatically get transferred not just to  Camp 5, but to Camp 5 Echo, which really has been the most  abusive place in all of Guantanamo Bay,” Stafford Smith told  RT. “Prisoners are held in all-steel cells and denied the  most basic human rights, just as a punishment for going on  strike.”

He added that controversial force-feeding techniques were  extensively employed by Guantanamo Bay personnel. The practice,  condemned by the World Medical Association as “a form of  inhuman and degrading treatment,” is according to the  detainees’ attorney, purposefully applied in the most painful  way.

They used to leave the tubes up the prisoners’ noses, so  that it would not hurt so much. They are still pulling these  tubes out every single time twice a day and forcing them back up  each time. They are still forcing far too much food far too  quickly into the prisoner, making prisoners sick. If they are  sick, they just carry on doing it.”

It’s been 12  years in January since the first detainees arrived at  Guantanamo Bay prison. Out of 779 detainees held at the facility  over that period of time, only seven have actually been convicted  and sentenced. Out of 155 inmates currently remaining at the  detention center, 77 have been cleared for release.

President Obama made a promise to close down Guantanamo when he  was campaigning for his first term back in 2008. He has been  explaining his further inability to fulfill the promise by having  his hands tied by the Congress, which restricted transfers of  Gitmo detainees. A defense  bill, passed at the end of December 2013, might help  facilitate an end to the deadlock, as among other things the bill  eases up the process for prisoners’ transfers.

In April 2013, Obama expressed his wish to renew efforts to close  the Guantanamo prison. Eleven detainees have been released  since that time. In comparison, the previous three years saw just  five transfers from the facility.


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