Cuban Workers' Confederation Condemns U.S. Blockade

The general secretary of the Cuban Workers’ Confederation (CTC), Ulises Guilarte, demanded on Tuesday, on behalf of the organization, the end of the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade.

In his speech at Havana's Revolution Square on the occasion of the International Workers' Day, Guilarte condemned the economic siege the U.S. government has imposed on Cuba for more than five decades.

“We demand an end to the genocidal blockade imposed on Cuba”, said the union leader, who also condemned the worsening of Washington's hostile policy toward Havana since President Donald Trump took office.

Guilarte also demanded that the United States return the illegally occupied territory by the naval base in Guantanamo, in eastern Cuba, against the will of the people and the government.

A detention center, which opened in 2002 and had about 800 inmates (only 41 prisoners remained there) is designated by international organizations as a place where torture and systematic human rights violations are committed.

Presided by Cuban leader Raul Castro and President Miguel Diaz-Canel, the parade on International Workers' Day in Havana brought together hundreds of thousands of Cubans of several generations.

Millions of Cubans also gathered in the capitals of all 15 Cuban provinces to ratify their commitment to defending the Revolution and socialism.

US sends 'dangerous message' by turning blind eye to Guantanamo tortures - UN

The US is in “clear violation” of the United Nations Convention against Torture over “gruesome” abuses committed by its agents in locations such as Guantanamo Bay, according to a UN official.

The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a Wednesday statement that "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse have not been brought to justice, and the victims have received no compensation or rehabilitation," despite a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledging the use of torture in US custody.

The UN rapporteur also stated that torture reportedly continues at US sites, including Guantanamo, despite former President Barack Obama ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in a 2009 executive order.

Britain's opposition Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson © Toby Melville

Melzer accused the US of being in "clear violation" of the UN's Convention against Torture and of sending a "dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world."
He stressed that his particular concern regards detainees who face "prolonged detention in almost complete isolation," according to a release on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Melzer noted the case of Guantanamo inmate Ammar al-Baluci, a Pakistani citizen and alleged 9/11 co-conspirator, who was named 153 times in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report. Baluci is said to have suffered torture during more than three years at CIA "black sites" before eventually being moved to Guantanamo, where he reportedly endures further abuse.

“Mr al-Baluchi has been held in isolation at a severely restricted-access facility at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade,” Melzer said, elaborating that "noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention."

The special rapporteur made clear that the ban on torture and ill-treatment is "absolute and allowed for no exceptions whatsoever," according to the UN release. “This is one of the most fundamental norms of international law, and its violation is listed among the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Melzer said.

Omar Khadr © Todd Korol

"...I therefore now urge the US to live up to its legacy, to end its policy of impunity and to bring its own perpetrators to justice," Melzer added. He noted that a "society bruised by torture and abuse" can only heal when the "truth about secret policies and practices is fully disclosed to the public and when full reparation and rehabilitation is granted to victims."

Melzer also requested once again to be allowed an official visit to Guantanamo and to interview inmates. "I very much regret that, despite repeated requests, my predecessors and I have consistently been refused access to Guantanamo and other high security facilities, in accordance with the standard terms of reference of my UN mandate,” he said.

Guantanamo Bay, which turned 15 years old in January, has long been the subject of scrutiny from the US and abroad, particularly for its use of torture and for holding prisoners without charge. Although President Obama campaigned with a promise to shut it down, that vow was never fulfilled. Meanwhile, his successor Donald Trump has expressed his support for the facility.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo," Trump tweeted in January, less than three weeks before his inauguration. "These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

@realDonaldTrump There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.

Around 800 prisoners have been detained there over the years, often subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding. Some have reportedly been stripped naked and confined to dark cells for significant periods of time. Inmates went on a major hunger strike in 2013 to protest their detention and treatment at the facility, resulting in authorities force-feeding them.

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Obama's Not Closing Guantanamo Bay, He's Renovating It

One would be hard-pressed to conclude that the multi-billion renovations indicate a closure of the facility in the near future.

The elusive promise U.S. President Barack Obama made eight years ago to shut down Guantanamo Bay remains a far-flung fantasy as the military detention facility will see billions of dollars in renovations, Al Jazeera reported Thursday.

RELATED: Guantanamo Base Destroys Ecosystem, Impedes Scientific Research

Although the number of detainees at the controversial prison has dropped from a high of 680 in 2003 to 59 in 2016 – 22 of whom have been cleared for release – one would really need to make a gigantic leap of faith to conclude that the multi-billion renovations indicate a closure of the facility in the near future.

The U.S. military is set to build a US$8.4 billion medical clinic, as well as a US$12.4 billion dining facility for troops who work at the prison. It’s also seeking more funds to upgrade troops’ housing.

Along with plans for the renovations, the fate of the contentious military prison will soon be in the hands of President-elect Donald Trump, who has said he plans to keep it open, adding that he’s prepared to "load it up with some bad dudes."

RELATED: Guantanamo Inmate Gets Anal Surgery After CIA 'Sodomy' Torture

While torture methods and indefinite detention without charge or trial have spurred a global condemnation of the prison from activists around the world, even jail commanders who work there are uncertain about its future.

"You know the detainees have questions of whether the transfers are going to stop when the new president takes charge January 20," said the detention center's commander, Navy Rear Adm. Peter Clarke.

"We don't know, they don't know. Their lawyers may speculate, but no one knows," said Clarke.

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US Clears 'Guantanamo Diary' Author for Release

The author of the best-selling memoir "Guantanamo Diary," Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been cleared for release after being held at the military prison for 14 years without charge.

A Mauritanian prisoner who wrote a best-selling memoir about his long ordeal at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo has been cleared for release, his lawyers and a U.S. official said Wednesday.

RELATED: Instead of Closing Guantanamo, the US Invests in Expansion

A parole-style review opened the way for Mohamedou Ould Slahi, author of “Guantanamo Diary,” to be moved out of the detention center at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. But he cannot leave until U.S. authorities arrange for him to be repatriated to his West African homeland or another country.

Slahi, 45, who arrived in Guantanamo in August 2002 and has been held without charge or trial, appeared before a Periodic Review Board, a multi-agency government panel, on June 2.

His release takes place as U.S. President Barack Obama renegs on his promise to close the military-run Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. The president committed to close the center since before he ran for president in 2008, but despite years of promises he says now that he won't use his power as commander-in-chief to unilaterally shut the detention center.

Slahi became one of Guantanamo's most prominent inmates with the 2015 publication of his prison memoir in which he described his years of detention and interrogation, including being subjected to harsh techniques widely considered torture. U.S. censors heavily redacted the 466-page manuscript he gave to his lawyers.

RELATED: Barack Obama Won't Use Executive Order to Close Guantanamo

Slahi was first detained by authorities in Mauritania and was then sent to Jordan and Afghanistan and finally to the Guantanamo prison, which was opened under President George W. Bush to hold terrorist suspects rounded up overseas following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The facility became a symbol of the excesses of Bush’s war on terror.

Slahi was originally suspected of being a senior recruiter for al-Qaida.

The review board determined that Slahi "poses no significant threat to the United States," the American Civil Liberties Union said. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Slahi was cleared for release and the ruling would soon be officially released.

“We will now work toward his quick release and return to the waiting arms of his loving family," said Nancy Hollander, one of Slahi’s attorneys, in a statement issued by the ACLU.

The timing of Slahi’s departure could depend on whether he can return to Mauritania. Many cleared prisoners have been held for years while the U.S. government seeks a country to accept them.

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