FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Guantánamo’s Britons Go on Hunger Strike

by ANDY WORTHINGTON

This has been a disturbing week for British resident and Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed, who endured two and a half years of torture at the hands of Pakistani agents, the CIA, and the United States’ proxy torturers in Morocco, before being transferred to Guantánamo in September 2004.

Last Friday, it was revealed that he was to face a trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo — the “terror courts” invented by Dick Cheney and his advisers in November 2001, which are empowered to conceal classified information from the defendants and, at the judge’s discretion, to accept “evidence” obtained through coercion. This is, of course, particularly worrying in Binyam’s case, as every shred of the so-called evidence against him appears to have been extracted through torture, and would be inadmissible in a courtroom on the US mainland.

There was some brighter news for Binyam on Tuesday, when a judge, Mr. Justice Saunders, responded positively to his lawyers’ request for a judicial review, which, they hope, will require the British government to drop its claim that it is “under no obligation under international law to assist foreign courts and tribunals in assuring that torture evidence is not admitted” and that “it is HM Government’s position that … evidence held by the UK Government that US and Moroccan authorities engaged in torture or rendition cannot be obtained” by Binyam’s lawyers. His lawyers also hope that a favourable decision in the judicial review will compel the government to reveal whatever information it has regarding British knowledge of Binyam’s rendition to torture in Morocco, and information regarding his life in London, which, Binyam says, was presented to him by his Moroccan torturers.

Today, however, the Independent reports that Binyam is so distressed by the announcement of the charges against him that he has embarked on a hunger strike. In a letter to foreign secretary David Miliband, his lawyers at Reprieve, the legal action charity that provides legal assistance to over 30 Guantánamo prisoners, explain that Binyam “began not eating food on May 2, 2008, when he was 146 lbs (10 stone 6 lbs),” but that this went unnoticed, because “the US military does not count it as a ‘hunger strike’ if the prisoner does not actually refuse the tray.” On May 18, therefore, when his weight had already dropped to 128 lbs (9 stone 2 lbs), Binyam began refusing the trays.

Binyam stopped his strike temporarily, when Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s director, and Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, his military lawyer, persuaded him to eat during the three days of their visit, but announced that he would resume on May 24. Stafford Smith explained, “Under the illegal procedures used by the US military in Guantánamo … they will consider him a ‘hunger striker’ and start force-feeding him when he reaches about 120 lbs (8 stone 8 lbs).” Stafford Smith thought that this might be on June 4 or 5.

From almost the moment that Guantánamo opened, in January 2002, hunger strikes have been used by the prisoners as the only way to protest the lawless conditions of their confinement — held without charge, with no family contact, with little or no social interaction, and with no inkling of when, if ever, their imprisonment will come to an end.

Persistent hunger strikers, however, are made to suffer even more, and are punished by being force-fed, a procedure that is monstrously cruel. Prisoners are strapped into a restraint chair using 16 separate straps — three across the head alone — and fed, twice a day, through a tube that is inserted into the stomach through the nose.

As well as being shockingly painful — and frequently unhygienic, as the tubes are not always cleaned after each use — force-feeding is also illegal, as the World Medical Association made clear in its Declaration of Tokyo in 1975: “Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.”

The US administration ignores this requirement, as it is unwilling to let prisoners secure what it would regard as a PR victory if they starved themselves to death. Perhaps as a result, four long-term hunger strikers —three in June 2006, and another last May — took the only other action that was available to them, and committed suicide.

Binyam has not yet reached this state of desperation — although in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on May 22, he wrote, “I have been next to committing suicide this past while. That would be one way to end it, I suppose.” Nevertheless, as Clive Stafford Smith points out, “The need for humanitarian intervention on behalf of Mr. Mohamed grows ever more urgent. Because no US court will hear his case, I am powerless to secure him the humane treatment that he needs. The British government is not powerless. It is crucial that this be top of the government’s agenda.”

ANDY WORTHINGTON is a British historian, and the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (published by Pluto Press). Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

ANDY WORTHINGTON is a British journalist, the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (published by Pluto Press), and the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new Guantánamo documentary, ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.’ Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk        WORDS THAT STICK ?  

February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail