Guantanamo Bay. It is known as one of the most inhumane prisons in the Western world.
In Cuba, these inmates have been suspected of being a threat to American National Security and have been held under horrendous conditions. (I remind you they have not officially been charged based on concrete, public evidence) Guantanamo's inmates have been known to be beaten, confined in cold cells, deprived of sleep and experience abuse of religion; having their Holy Book, the Qur’an, thrown in the toilet among other instances. Many of these detainees have been held since 2001, after the attacks on the World Trade Centre.
Far in distance, and close in likeness is Millhaven Penitentiary. It is a high-security prison outside Kingston, Ontario. The location of concern is a small prison within Millhaven that houses six persons.; six detainees suspected of threat to National Security. Parallel to the security certificates and evidence, these men have been detained and their conditions and experiences have been hidden from public scrutiny until the men have the opportunity to disclose their experiences.
Again, these men are held indefinitely, not knowing what evidence is being held against them. Currently, we have remaining a Syrian refugee Hassan Almrei. Would you care to take a shot in the dark how long he’s been there? 8 months? 15? 2 years? The answer is, this month marks his 7th year that he’s been held in detention under the National Security Certificate.
Maybe he is not beaten here. Maybe he is not intentionally robbed of sleep. Maybe the pages from his Holy Book are not torn out. But what we do have is a place where people can be tortured with the prospect of being held between four concrete walls without knowing when you will taste freedom again, just like in Guantanamo Bay.
Almrei said, “I am in jail for seven years in a country where they call themselves a democratic country. They believe in principle of law (but) they have a double standard – one for Canadian citizen, one for non-citizens.” Many human rights activists have fought against the psychological torture of the detainees in Millhaven.
In January of 2007, one of the detainees, Mahmoud Jaballah wrote in an open letter to the Canadian people:
“And now we are faced with the denial of medical care. In one case, shots for Hepatitis C have not been given since September 2, 2006. Surgery for a knee injury and a double hernia have not been scheduled, even though we have been here since April, 2006. Our demands are very simple.
We would like to use phone cards to call family overseas. The KIHC makes us use the most expensive plan available, which our families can't afford because they are on social assistance. Since calls are monitored, it makes no sense why a cheaper calling card cannot be used.
We want the same rights as other federal inmates: access to a library, educational programs, and trailer visits with our families where we can stay together for three days every month.”
He continues to mention they their outdoor area is just three meters away from a large fenced in grassy area that is not in use by other inmates.
I leave you with this quote and wish to hear your reflections on the living conditions of those being detained under the security certificates: “Ultimately, we wish to be treated as human beings, and all human beings have rights. We wish to be reunited with our loved ones, but until that time comes, we want to live with as much dignity as is possible while we are at Guantanamo North. There is no security-related reason why this is not possible.”
(Actual open letter: http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/924 )