15 Oct 2013 | by Nadira Tudor | #Guantanamo ì | Armed Conflicts - Interviews

Reprieve‘s office is full of books explaining how the international justice system works and how to help those accused of the most extreme crimes. Based in London, the organization supports prisoners around the world.

Reprieve’s aim is to secure each person’s right to a fair trial, those mainly imprisoned for crime such as terrorism or murder. Many cases involve individuals stuck in death row and Guantanamo Bay.

Strategic Director Cori Crider talks to IPSTV Correspondent Nadira Tudor.

Cori Crider: You go and you meet your client. He has a face and a history, and a personality. It is not just trying to stop something, it is actually trying to defend him. It is about trying to achieve something for him, see him hug his family again. Remember, over half of the people left in Guantanamo today have been cleared for release. Sometimes, for most of the time they have spent in Guantanamo, someone from the US Government has been telling them, “You will go home any day”, for most of their imprisonment. As time went on and promises were broken, they stopped believing it. They say, “well, the world is obviously forgotten me and has forgotten my plight. What option do I have, but to refuse food and protest?”

Nadira Tudor: Why do the authorities then implement force feeding?

Cori Crider: According to the Defence Department this is humane and they have to preserve these people’s lives. They cannot let them commit suicide. I talk to my clients and they just don’t buy it, they say they are not trying to commit suicide. They do not want to die.

You just have to look at the way they do it: Prisoners have a restrained chair, which brochures describe as a padded cell on wheels. They chain a man arms to a chair, they chain up his legs. There is even a strap for his head and it is forced back against the back of the chair. A 100 cm plastic tube is passed up his nose down through his throat into his stomach when he is put against this chair.

Reprieve Guantanamo / IPSTV
Nadira Tudor: What was Obama’s administration attitude towards this issue?

Cori Crider: I remember sitting on a chair listening to Obama’s speech, when he signed the executive order, saying he is going to close the prison within a year. Obviously, this is not what happened. There were political resistances from Republicans after Obama took office and I am sad to say, and certainly my clients are sad to learn that Obama was frankly pretty weak.

Nadira Tudor: Do you think there are now changes in the second term?

Cori Crider: There have been suggestions that Obama is deeply troubled by his failure to close Guantanamo and the fact that it is still going. I think it is a stain on American’s reputation and on his consciousness.

One of my clients was ordered release by a judge. He was a kid, called Mohammed al-Gharani. He was taken to Guantanamo when he was fourteen-year-old. He was a kid from Saudi Arabia and he did not speak a word of English when he got there, but in the end he sounded like a kid from Cleveland. He was smart and irrepressible. He have been treated so badly in the time he was there, but he had a free spirit and managed to keep not only his spirit, but actually the spirits of a lot of his older fellow prisoners. He was just an amazing guy.

If you were an Arab or a foreigner of some kind in Pakistan or Afghanistan, after September 11th, you were very likely to be picked up and sold for a bounty to the United States. We have seen the bounty flyers – they basically have a picture of a bearded Arab, a picture of the same bearded Arab behind some bars and fistful of American dollars. And the flyer says: “We can pay for you and for your village to live comfortably with health care for the rest of your life if you just hand us the called terrorist”.

Afghanistan Bounty Leaflet / IPSTV
Nadira Tudor: Do you think that the work that you and your colleagues do actually makes a difference worldwide?

Cori Crider: When I go to somewhere like in Yemen, that has the largest number of people in Guantanamo and it is also a site of drone strikes and I say “Hello, I am from the United States, in fact I am from Texas, sorry for George Bush, sorry for Guantanamo, and actually I am pretty sorry for the drone war”, people respond incredibly and overwhelmingly positively to that.

Nadira Tudor: If Retrieve had a message, what would that be to the international community?

Cori Crider: The war on terror is wrong and it is counterproductive, but that also, all of us have the power to end it.

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