Guantánamo prisoner launches historic legal challenge

By agency reporter
12 Mar 2014

A gravely ill Yemeni man yesterday (11 March) became the first Guantánamo Bay prisoner to have his claims of abuse at the military base considered by a US court of law.

Emad Hassan, who has been held without charge since 2002 and cleared for release since 2009, has been abusively force-fed more than 5000 times since 2007 as part of the military’s efforts to break his hunger strike. He suffers from serious internal injuries as a result.

Until now, no court has been able to assess the legality of the methods used by the military to force-feed detainees at Guantánamo Bay. This case presents the first, historic opportunity for this to occur, following the federal court of appeals ruling last month recognising the need for such a hearing.

The Legal charity Repreive says Imad Abdullah Hasan v Barack Obama highlights the increasing brutality of the Guantánamo Bay force-feeding process, which the military has amended step-by-step to make it so painful that only the most courageous peaceful protester can continue. It will be the first case requiring a US judge to review a Guantánamo prisoner’s detailed testimony describing his treatment and will force the military to respond.

Hassan’s legal team argues, with expert support, that force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay amount to torture. Among other things, the speed at which liquid is forced into some prisoners is a form of water torture that is similar to water-boarding. The legal team cites clear evidence that the military practices and protocols have been deliberately altered to cause gratuitous pain and suffering in an effort to coerce the prisoners to renounce their peaceful protest.

The motion to enjoin the abusive force-feeding will be filed in the DC District Court by Eric Lewis of Lewis Baach, Jon B. Eisenberg and Reprieve US.

Eric Lewis, partner at Lewis Baach pllc and Chair of Reprieve US, said: “This case marks an historic step in the long battle to bring basic rights to the legal black hole at Guantánamo Bay. For over a decade, abused prisoners at the US military base have been denied any effective legal mechanism to challenge their treatment. This case calls upon US judges to restore the most basic rights, medical standards and human dignity to these men at Guantánamo Bay.”

Jon B. Eisenberg, pro bono counsel for Emad Hassan, said: “After 12 years of wrongful imprisonment, Emad and his fellow-hunger strikers are protesting peacefully in the only way they can. The punishment inflicted on these desperate men is nothing short of torture, and it is about time that it is brought to light and judged by a court of law.”

Emad Hassan said: “All I want is what President Obama promised – my liberty, and fair treatment for others. I have been cleared for five years, and I have been force-fed for seven years. This is not a life worth living, it is a life of constant pain and suffering. While I do not want to die, it is surely my right to protest peacefully without being degraded and abused every day.”

[Ekk/4]

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