Guantanamo Bay Watch
July 10, 2003
Interview With Amnesty International's Matthew Van Saun About Guantanamo Bay

As I've mentioned in an earlier post, there appears to be a real problem going on at Guantanamo Bay right now with regard to the treatment of prisoners, the treatment of under age youths, and the recent floating of plans to convert the facility into a Death Camp.

I took the liberty of interviewing Amnesty International's Matthew Van Saun about this issue a few weeks ago while attending the Friday 13, 2003 INS Mass Deportation Protest in San Francisco. Matthew emphasized that now is the time to be proactive in letting our representatives know that these people deserve trials and executing them without due process is unacceptable.

The wind was blowing really hard, so I've transcribed the entire interview, in case portions of it are too hard to hear over the wind.

Video: Matthew Van Saun On Guantanamo Bay (Small - 9 MB)

Van Saun: I'm out here today regarding the deportation of 13,000 Arab and Muslim men -- giving a statement for Amnesty International.

Question: Can you confirm some of the reports that we've been hearing about the government sort of floating plans to turn Guantanamo Bay into a death camp?

Van Saun: Well, I can tell you that Amnesty International, if these reports turn out to be true, would be very opposed to that plan. Because, what they would be doing is basically executing people without a trial and without due process. Amnesty International has a very strong platform against the death penalty in the United States.

We would be very concerned if they were building a purported "camp" to actually put people to death in Guantanamo. It's something that Amnesty International has sent out issue briefs on and press statements, and if it turns out to be true, I'm sure that Amnesty International would like to send a delegation down to Guantanamo to inspect this camp or this proposed idea of setting up some sort of death camp. If it's legitimate.

Question: If it's legitimate? There have been people from the Administration saying they're thinking about it, basically?

Van Saun: Yes. Well, if we have information that says that they are actually going to follow through with their proposal of turning it into a quasi-death camp. If that's what they're planning on. Then we would be very much opposed to such a thing.

Question: But it's hard to really oppose it until they've announced that they're implementing something?

Van Saun: Well, we can still oppose it by pressuring members of Congress and the government. Especially the Justice Department and the Department of Defense. We can still shoot it down as well because we would really want to make sure that they know that it would not be acceptable, even for an idea, to put people to death at Guantanamo.

Question: Do you think these days that maybe Congress is a better bet than the Department of Justice as far as telling people that care what we think?

Van Saun: I think so. I think if we put a lot of pressure on our Congressman and our Senators, in San Francisco and all over the country, to make sure they're aware of these issues. Some congressman sometimes aren't even aware of what's going on. And it's best to be proactive in stopping the government before they act in such an instance, if they were going to do something.

Question: So maybe we'd write a letter to bring it to their attention, or something, before it even gets their desks?

Van Saun: Letters, phone calls, emails, faxes -- whatever it takes to get people to realize that this is an unacceptable form of punishment.

Question: Does Amnesty International have a position you can talk about in terms of Guantanamo Bay and the conditions that the prisoners are being kept in? Did you guys have an inspection team there or anything?

Van Saun: I don't think Amnesty actually ever had an inspection team allowed into Guantanamo Bay.

Question: So there hasn't been one?

Van Saun: As far as I know, there has never been an inspection team from Amnesty International allowed into Guantanamo Bay.

Posted by Lisa at July 10, 2003 12:44 PM | TrackBack
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