The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and share information and ideas through any media and regardless of borders.
But how do these words apply to the prisoners at Guantanamo?
Well, they don’t. Detainees are allowed to speak to their families, via Skype, only four times a year. The prison library bans many books, including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago about Soviet forced labor under the pretext that it might sow dissent. Instead, they offer handbooks on reducing stress. Detainees are also forbidden to speak with the press, says Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of human rights organization Code Pink.
“We only hear about what the prisoners are going through once they are released from prison. There is a prisoner, Omar Deghayes, who, once he left prison, was able to talk about how he was tortured so severely that he lost one of his eyes while in Guantanamo. So yes, the kind of treatment they are getting is considered classified information. Journalists who are allowed to go to Guantanamo are not allowed to talk to the prisoners, so it is very difficult to get information about what these prisoners are going through,”Medea Benjamin said.
Moreover, the detainees are not allowed to talk about the maltreatment they received in Gitmo even in court. It’s unheard of that the US judicial system considers someone’s memory, particularly a memory of torture and illegal conduct by your own Government, as classified information, says Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the Chair of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin.
“The lawyers have been objecting to the fact that their clients’ memories of how they were tortured or their knowledge of how they were tortured is classified information and they are not allowed to speak about it. They can talk to their lawyers about it, but the lawyers can’t talk about it. So, it is incredible that the US not only classifies it own documents, but it is actually classifying people’s memories and people’s memories of the illegal torture that took place against them,”Michael Ratner said.