Challenges with Guantanamo Bay: David Rose and Gillian Slovo discuss

– It is crucial to maintain the pressure. Things are not getting better in Guantanamo, they’re getting worse. But it’s getting more difficult to interest the editors of Fleet Street as time passes by, says David Rose, journalist and writer.

David Rose
David Rose
David Rose discussed Guantanamo Bay at PEN’s first monthly event in 2005 with novelist and playwright, Gillian Slovo. Rose is one of the few British journalists to have visited Guantanamo, while Gillian Slovo is the successful playwright of Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, based on interviews with ex-Guantanamo inmates, their relatives and lawyers.

– The United States are taking steps to further institutionalize Guantanamo Bay, said David Rose, and explained: – It is building a new permanent prison facility, known as Camp 5, which will hold 200 or more detainees indefinitely. Without ever confronting them with the allegations held against them and without ever subjecting them to trial or due process. The American intelligence services have declared these prisoners to be too dangerous to be released – ever. They will remain there till they die.

Rose believed it was the work of a large number of British journalists that led to the recent release of the last four British detainees in Guantanamo Bay, by putting constant pressure on the American government and the British government. Thus, he was concerned the editors and newspaper executives of Fleet Street wouldn’t show much interest in the remaining detainees of other nationalities.

Gillian Slovo on the other hand, believed journalists couldn’t really take the praise for the releases: – I think the Americans and the British

Gillian Slovo
Gillian Slovo
feel that if we just give the British back, then the British will stop making a fuss about it. It seems simply as cynical as: “let’s get rid of the high profile ones”.

Slovo also told the story of one of the people she interviewed while researching her play. He was a British resident but an Iraqi citizen. The British government argued that the Iraqi government must be the one arguing for his release. They did this at a time when Saddam Hussain was still in power, and they were just about to go to war on Iraq.

– This shows the huge amount of cynicism there is about Guantanamo, Slovo said. – What we’ve seen in there is a war on human rights which is making some people less human than others. Seeing the recent release of the last British prisoners as ‘a great victory’, would therefore be a grave mistake. 

The heated and insightful discussion kept going for about an hour, with many questions from the audience of almost 90 PEN members in the intimate setting of Adam Street Club.

David Rose wrote the book Guantanamo: America’s war on Human Rights (2004), the first to be published on the subject. Rose has visited the camp, and interviewed guards, officials and the prison’s commander. He describes an atmosphere of isolation, harassment, physical brutality and Kafkaesque accusations.

Gilian Slovo is the author of ten novels, and compiled a play on the world’s perhaps most controversial prison camp together with Victoria Brittain.  The play, Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, has been very successful and is now sold to Sweden, Italy, New Zealand and Spain.

Later in the evening Salman Rushdie, president of American PEN, reflected upon the proposed offence of incitement of religious hatred.

Report by Hadia Tajik

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