Friday, May 11, 2007

Press Release: "Guantanamo North" Staff Warns Hungerstrike May Result in Death

UPDATE: We are very happy to announce that since the press release below was issued, an agreement was reached which allowed Mr. Almrei to end his 155 day hungerstrike. As of late Friday, 11 May, Mr. Almrei has been eating again. Mr. Almrei is now the only prisoner at Canada's Guantanamo, the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, and is thus in de facto solitary confinement. He is held indefinitely under a legal process that the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized as unconstitutional.



Forgotten, security certificate detainee's hungerstrike reaches 155 days

11 May 2007, Kingston, ON – Hassan Almrei, the sole remaining detainee in Canada's prison for security certificate detainees, is now on Day 155 of a liquids-only hunger strike (orange juice and water). Mr. Almrei is demanding improvements to his conditions of detention at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (KIHC), including protection against harassment by guards and other prison personnel and amounting to being treated with dignity. There is no independent oversight of conditions at KIHC although The Office of the Correctional Investigator, which acts as the ombudsman for other federal detainees, is prepared to provide oversight.

KIHC authorities have now explicitly recognized that Hassan Almrei’s life is in danger. On Thursday, May 10, Linda Roscoe, Chief of KIHC’s Health Care Service sent an “urgent” request for Advance Directives to Hassan Almrei, asking that he specify “the care that you would like us to provide to you should you lose consciousness or suffer a medical event in which you cannot communicate with others. Specifically, we need to know if you desire the medical team to provide you with intervention to save your life…”

Ms. Roscoe also wrote: “We note that you have lost weight. We note that you were not consuming any solid food only fluids (…) We are concerned your health may be in jeopardy. Recently, we have received information from the Correctional Supervisor you will not consume any food and fluid at all, including water. This will result in significant medical issues for you and may include death.”

In 2000-2002, Turkish political prisoners went on a very similar hunger strike, ingesting sweetened lemonade, salt and water. Over a hundred of these hunger strikers died after periods varying between 130 to 250 days, with the maximum number of deaths occurring at about 170-180 days. Hundreds of other Turkish hunger strikers on this fruit juice and water diet suffered permanent impairment, notably brain damage (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome) due to severe thiamine deficiency.

So far, officials at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada have failed to resolve the situation, despite its gravity.

If the hunger strike lasts much longer, it is probable that Mr. Almrei will be permanently impaired or die. Yet, the security certificate provisions under which Mr. Almrei is being detained were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in a unanimous decision rendered in February 2007. In particular, the Court recognized that a process based on secret evidence does not allow an adequate defense and hence may prevent the person from proving his innocence. An internal governmnet memo obtained during the Arar Inquiry admits that, "The evidence against [Almrei] does not meet the threshold for criminal charges to be laid against him."

Four other men previously held under security certificates have been released under forms of house arrest in which family members act as their custodians. Mr. Almrei has no family living in Canada. Mr. Almrei has been in prison without charge, indefinitely, since October 2001 under an unconstitutional process.

It is crucial that the government act swiftly to meet Mr. Almrei's entirely reasonable demands.


Dr. Janet Cleveland, 514-528-0059
Mr. Bill Siksay, MP, 613-996-5597 or 604-291-8863
* Mr. Siksay is making a private visit to Mr. Almrei in prison today.

Hungerstrike Support Committee
tel. 514 859 9023