The American Bear


A federal judge late Friday ordered the Obama administration to halt the force-feeding of a Guantanamo prisoner and to preserve more than 100 videos that show the captive being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed.

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler’s unprecedented ruling also temporarily barred military officials at the detention facility from subjecting the prisoner, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, to so-called forced cell extractions “for the purposes of” tube-feedings until May 21, the date of the next hearing in the case.

Dhiab has been cleared for release or transfer out of Guantanamo since 2009. His attorneys have been waging a lengthy legal battle to permanently end his force-feeding.

'This is a major crack in Guantanamo’s years-long effort to oppress prisoners and to exercise total control over information about the prison,' said Cori Crider, one of Dhiab’s attorneys who works for UK-based charity Reprieve.

'Dhiab is cleared for release and should have been returned to his family years ago,' Crider added. 'He is on hunger strike because he feels he has no other option left. I am glad Judge Kessler has taken this seriously, and we look forward to our full day in court to expose the appalling way Dhiab and others have been treated.'

Judge orders government to stop force-feeding Guantanamo prisoner

US officials will no longer provide information on Guantanamo hunger strikers

A spokesman for the US military announced this week that the authorities will no longer provide public information on how many prisoners at the American gulag at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are participating in hunger strikes to protest their indefinite detention.

A report by the Associated Press cited an email from Navy Commander John Filostrat, speaking for the Joint Task Force Command Guantanamo.

“JTF-Guantanamo allows detainees to peacefully protest, but will not further their protests by reporting the numbers to the public,” Filostrat said. “The release of this information serves no operational purpose and detracts from the more important issues, which are the welfare of detainees and the safety and security of our troops.”

The latest policy and its Orwellian defense (“the welfare of the detainees!”) are in some ways the logical extension of the longstanding practice of brutal force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners, in which a nasogastric feeding tube is forced into their stomachs, causing great pain. The practice has been widely denounced as a form of torture.

The American military had earlier concluded that force-feeding was necessary because it feared that deaths caused by the protests would focus greater worldwide attention on the inhuman conditions at Guantanamo, as well as the by now well-known fact that the vast majority of the detainees are guilty of nothing, even by the legally dubious standards of the US “war on terror.”

Apparently the US government has now decided that it would be even more effective to pretend that the remaining 162 prisoners at Guantanamo do not exist.

Depressed and driven to the point of desperation, Nabil joined a hunger strike in February. This was not Gitmo’s first hunger strike, but it has attracted the most attention. As it gained momentum, and as Nabil and his fellow prisoners got sicker, the Obama administration was backed into a corner. The president has taken justified heat as his bold and eloquent campaign promises to close Gitmo have been forgotten. Suddenly, he was faced with the gruesome prospect of prisoners dropping like flies as they starved themselves to death while the world watched. Instead of releasing Nabil and the other prisoners who have been classified as no threat to the United States, the administration decided to prevent suicides by force-feeding the strikers.

Nabil has not been the only “mistake” in our war on terror. Hundreds of other Arabs have been sent to Gitmo, chewed up by the system there, never charged and eventually transferred back to their home countries. (These transfers are carried out as secretly and as quietly as possible.) There have been no apologies, no official statements of regret, no compensation, nothing of the sort. The United States was dead wrong, but no one can admit it.
John Grisham, "After Guantanamo, Another Injustice" (via thepeoplesrecord)

(Source: thepeoplesrecord, via dendroica)


Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) force fed under standard Guantánamo Bay procedure

As Ramadan begins, more than 100 hunger-strikers in Guantánamo Bay continue their protestMore than 40 of them are being force-fed. A leaked document sets out the military instructions, or standard operating procedure, for force-feeding detainees. In this four-minute film made by Human Rights organisation Reprieve and Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia, US actor and rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), experiences the procedure

Widespread Breakdown of Safeguards at Gitmo | Jason Leopold

On more than a dozen occasions over the course of eight years, Adnan Latif complained to his attorney that his American captors forced him to take medications that left him feeling like “a zombie.”

The 36-year-old Guantanamo prisoner, who died there last year in a high-security cell, claimed he was injected with unknown substances while he slept and plied with pills whenever the guards deemed him to be unruly, which appeared to be often.

The military repeatedly dismissed Latif’s allegations as the paranoid ramblings of a difficult and brain-damaged terror suspect. But it turns out his story was true - and only the tip of a still-submerged iceberg.

Latif’s tale of forced drugging, and other aspects of what has emerged as a torturous decade of indefinite detention at Gitmo, is laid bare in a military report released Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by this reporter last year following the young Yemeni’s mysterious and solitary death.

The declassified 79-page report details the US military’s investigation into Latif’s reported suicide, found that Guantanamo guards contributed to his death by failing to follow numerous protocols set forth in the facility’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs); yet no one has been held accountable or faced disciplinary action in the case.

Nor does the report explain how the frail youngest son of a Yemeni merchant ended up on an autopsy table, his body laced with a mind-boggling pharmaceutical cocktail of undetermined origin.

Latif, who suffered from a traumatic brain injury incurred decades before, believed the guard force was trying to kill him. According to unclassified notes taken in May 2012 by David Remes, his Washington D.C.-based attourney, Latif said he sometimes removed psychiatric medications from his mouth “because I don’t want to […] here.” A word in Remes’ notes is missing. He said it might be “die.”

Remes also wrote that Latif was being medicated with “sedatives and psychotropics [and] painkillers,” and noted that his client said he was sometimes given the wrong dosage and the wrong medication.

After Latif was found unresponsive in his cell last September, an autopsy report concluded he committed suicide by hoarding and ingesting two-dozen doses of Invega, prescribed a month earlier to treat schizophrenia.

The report does not mention Latif by name. Rather, it refers to him by his internment number, ISN156 - identification marks that were on his body bag when he was finally returned home to Yemen last December.

In addition to Invega, the drug used to treat schizophrenia, a previously classified toxicology report made public last week reveals the presence of other anti-psychotics and painkillers in Latif’s system, including codeine, Percocet, Seroquel, Ativan, Celexa, morphine and Remeron - medications that can result in severe side effects if taken in combination, according to a redacted copy of the newly released report.

To top it off, Latif, who was a frequent hunger striker, also suffered from acute pneumonia that went undetected prior to his death. The report blames Latif, himself, for the institutional failures that led to his death, saying he was “an exceptionally challenging detainee.”

Remes calls the report “a whitewash,” adding that Latif’s death is an “indirect result of [President Barack] Obama’s failure to transfer Yemenis back to Yemen.”

Two presidential administrations over the course of a decade concluded Latif did not belong at Guantanamo and had cleared him for release, but he and other detainees continued to languish there, without being charged and without hope of a path to freedom.

Legal proceedings and other documentation over the years indicate Latif was seeking medical assistance for the crippling mental and physical damage sustained in a car crash when he was swept up in a post-9/11 dragnet for terrorists near the Afghan-Pakistan border. He was sold to the Northern Alliance for a $5,000 bounty and arrived at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay as one of the prison’s first detainees. [continue]

Consider the irony of the Obama administration arguing here that the Guantánamo Bay detainees are not ‘persons’ within the scope of US law guaranteeing religious freedom, in a post-Citizens United world where even corporations are endowed with legal personhood.

US to force-feed Guantanamo detainees during Ramadan

Happy [belated] 4th of July, everyone. American freedom, peace, progress, etc.

(via mehreenkasana)

(via mohandasgandhi)

US steps up efforts to break Guantánamo hunger strike | The Observer

Increasingly brutal tactics are being used in an attempt to break the hunger strike by detainees at Guantánamo Bay, according to fresh testimony from the last British resident still held in the camp.

Shaker Aamer claims that the US authorities are systematically making the regime more hardline to try to defuse the strike, which now involves almost two-thirds of the detainees. Techniques include making cells “freezing cold” to accentuate the discomfort of those on hunger strike and the introduction of “metal-tipped” feeding tubes, which Aamer said were forced into inmates’ stomachs twice a day and caused detainees to vomit over themselves.

The 46-year-old from London tells of one detainee who was admitted to hospital 10 days ago after a nurse had pushed the tube into his lungs rather than his stomach, causing him later to cough up blood. Aamer also alleges that some nurses at Guantánamo Bay are refusing to wear their name tags in order to prevent detainees registering abuse complaints against staff.

Speaking last week from the camp in Cuba, exactly four months after he joined the hunger strike, Aamer said: “The administration is getting ever more angry and doing everything they can to break our hunger strike. Honestly, I wish I was dead.”

[…] Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal charity Reprieve, who passed a transcript of his conversation with Aamer to the Observer, said: “These gruesome new details show just how bad things are in Guantánamo. The whole thing is at breaking point. Clearly the US military is under enormous pressure and doing everything it can to hurt the men and break the hunger strike.”

Although the military initially denied that there was a hunger strike inside Guantanámo, it now concedes that, of the 166 detainees, 104 are on hunger strike and 44 are being force-fed.

FOIA suit reveals Guantánamo’s ‘indefinite detainees’ - 06/17/2013 | Miami Herald

The Obama administration Monday lifted a veil of secrecy surrounding the status of the detainees at Guantánamo, for the first time publicly naming the four dozen captives it defined as indefinite detainees — men too dangerous to transfer but who cannot be tried in a court of law.

The names had been a closely held secret since a multi-agency task force sifted through the files of the Guantánamo detainees in 2009 trying to achieve President Barack Obama’s executive order to close the detention center. In January 2010, the task force revealed that it classified 48 Guantánamo captives as dangerous but ineligible for trial because of a lack of evidence, or because the evidence was too tainted.

They became so-called “indefinite detainees,” a form of war prisoner held under Congress’ 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force.”

The Defense Department released the list to The Miami Herald, which, with the assistance of Yale Law School students, had sued for it in federal court in Washington, D.C. The Pentagon also sent the list to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Monday, a Defense Department official said.

According to the list, the men designated for indefinite detention are 26 Yemenis, 12 Afghans, 3 Saudis, 2 Kuwaitis, 2 Libyans, a Kenyan, a Moroccan and a Somali.

Human rights groups denounced the existence of such a list.

Amnesty International’s Zeke Johnson called “fundamentally flawed” the notion of classifying captives as indefinite detainees. “Under international human rights law,” he said, “all of the detainees should either be charged and fairly tried in federal court, or released.”

Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn hailed release of the list through the Freedom of Information Act: “It is fundamental to democracy that the public know the identities of the people our nation is depriving of liberty and why they are being detained.”

Some of the men on the list are among the prisoners currently on hunger strike and being force-fed at the prison, for example, Kuwaitis Fawzi al Odah, 36, and Fayez al Kandari, 35, and Yemeni Abdal Malik al Wahab, about 43, who in March, according to his lawyer David Remes, vowed to fast until he got out of the prison “either dead or alive.”

Two men on the list are deceased. Both Afghans, one committed suicide with a bedsheet in a recreation yard at Guantánamo’s Camp 6 for cooperative captives and the other died of a heart attack, also in Camp 6. So now the 166 captives at Guantánamo actually include 46 indefinite detainees.

Two former CIA captives, held apart from the majority of Guantánamo’s prisoners as “high-value detainees” are also listed as indefinite detainees: Mohammed Rahim, an Afghan man, and Somali Hassan Guleed.

All the other ex-CIA captives were designated for trial. Those include accused al-Qaida kingpin Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 48, and four alleged fellow conspirators in the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, who were in pretrial hearings at the war court this week. Also designated for trial was Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 48, accused in the 2000 USS Cole attack that killed 17 American sailors, and, like Mohammed, facing a death-penalty tribunal.

Administration officials have through the years described a variety of reasons why the men could not face trial: Evidence against some of the indefinite detainees was too tainted by CIA or other interrogation torture or abuse to be admissible in a court; insufficient evidence to prove an individual detainee had committed a crime; or military intelligence opinions that certain captives had undertaken suicide or other type of terrorist training, and had vowed to engage in an attack on release.

In all, the list identifies 34 candidates for prosecution. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the Pentagon’s chief war crimes prosecutor, said Sunday night that fewer than those 34 men will be prosecuted because of federal court rulings that disqualified “providing material support for terror” as a war crime in most if not all Guantánamo cases.

At Human Rights Watch, senior counterterrorism counsel Andrea Prasow called the list “a fascinating window into the Obama administration’s thinking circa January 2010” but both flawed and somewhat irrelevant today.

“Many of the detainees designated for prosecution can only be prosecuted in civilian court,” she said. “So unless Congress lifts the restrictions banning their transfer they are effectively ‘indefinite detainees.’ ”

She also noted that, since the list was drawn up, the Obama administration was reportedly considering transferring five Afghan Taliban to custody of the Qatari government in exchange for the release of U.S. POW Bowe Bergdahl.

The Wall Street Journal named the five men and all appear on the list released Monday as indefinite detainees: Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, and Abdul Haq Wasiq.

One man categorized in 2010 as a possible candidate for prosecution was Saudi Arabian Mohammed Qahtani, 37, once suspected of being the absent “20th hijacker” in the Sept. 11 plot. He was so brutally interrogated at Guantánamo that a senior Pentagon official excluded him from the Bush-era 9/11 war crimes charge sheet. That official, Susan Crawford, told The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward that Qahtani’s treatment amounted to torture.

The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, with the assistance of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at the Yale Law School, filed suit in federal court in Washington D.C., in March for the list under the Freedom of Information Act. The students, in collaboration with Washington attorney Jay Brown, represented Rosenberg in a lawsuit that specifically sought the names of the 46 surviving prisoners.

Monday, hours before the release of the names, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler had set a July 8 deadline for the government to update the court on its classification review. The Justice Department gave the list to Brown, who in turn gave it to Rosenberg.

Guantánamo doctors must refuse to force-feed hunger strikers – physicians |

A group of senior American doctors has called on military physicians at Guantánamo Bay to refuse to work in a mass force-feeding programme that is being used to keep hunger-striking detainees alive.

Writing in the prestigious and influential New England Journal of Medicine, the three doctors called Guantánamo “a medical ethics free zone” and said that medical staff had a moral duty to allow the prisoners to go on hunger strike without coercing them into treatment. They also called on doctors to refuse to take part in force-feeding.

“Military physicians should refuse to participate in any act that unambiguously violates medical ethics,” wrote Dr George Annas, Dr Sondra Crosby and Dr Leonard Glantz, in a three-page article outlining an ethical case against force-feeding of the detainees. All three are senior medical professors at Boston University.

The doctors urged others in the American medical profession to speak out on the issue and provide support for any army doctor who might refuse to participate in the procedure. The article said:

Military physicians who refuse to follow orders that violate medical ethics should be actively and strongly supported … Guantánamo has been described as a ‘legal black hole’. As it increasingly also becomes a medical ethics free zone, we believe it’s time for the medical profession to take constructive political action.

The hunger strike among the 166 detainees at Guantánamo Bay – the vast majority of whom have been held without charge for more than a decade – began in February, over allegations that guards had behaved roughly and mishandled Qu’rans when they discovered contraband in prisoners’ cells. The allegations have been strongly denied by military authorities but the strike has now morphed into a broader protest about conditions at the base and the fate of those held there.

Despite the fact that 86 of those held have been cleared for release, there is little concrete sign that they will be transferred any time soon. The hunger strike has caused headlines around the world and highlighted the failure of President Barack Obama to fulfill a 2008 campaign promise to close the base.

It has, however, prompted Obama to address the issue. In a high-profile speech in May the president renewed his vow to shut the base down and said he would transfer cleared prisoners to their home countries and appoint a top official to oversee that process. Since then, no appointee has been named and no prisoners have been released.

Instead the hunger strike has continued to grow amid reports of a tough internal crackdown on protesters that has seen them subjected to body searches and often put in isolation cells. On Wednesday there were 104 detainees on hunger strike, 43 of them being force-fed by medical staff including a team of more than 40 experts specially flown out to the base.

In an interview, Dr Annas said the force-feeding went against international standards of medical ethics. He said that a hunger strike was a legitimate form of protest – not an attempt to commit suicide – and that the portrayal of doctors at Guantánamo as ethically intervening to preserve life was wrong. “That is at the core of this. These people are not trying to commit suicide. They are risking death to make a political point,” he said.