A prisoner in Guantánamo Bay has revealed to his lawyers the increasingly brutal punishment meted out to detainees peacefully protesting their indefinite detention via hunger strike.
Emad Hassan wrote in a letter to his lawyers: “One Yemeni is 80 pounds and he was brought to his feeding by the Forced Cell Extraction (FCE) team, Guantánamo's official riot police. Yesterday the F.C.E team beat him when they came into and out of his cell. He is 80 pounds with one broken arm. He cannot walk, just crawl from his bed to the faucet or toilet once he needs to use it! How can someone with this condition fight eight armoured guards?”
Emad, himself a Yemeni who has been on hunger strike since 2007 and cleared for release from the prison since 2007, has never been charged with a crime. He said in another letter: “As I write now, [a detainee] is vomiting on the torture chair, having been brought there by the Forced Cell Extraction (FCE) team. The nurse and corpsman have refused to stop the feed, or to slow the acceleration of the liquids.”
The legal charity Reprieve says that a renewed challenge to brutal force-feeding practices in federal court from Emad and other detainees recounts speeds of force-feeding that grossly exceed accepted medical procedures. Medical expert Professor Steven Miles, MD has submitted an affidavit in which he describes the reported rates of force-feeding at Guantánamo as “an extraordinary departure from customary medical practice” reminiscent of “a practice of torture called ‘Water Cure’ that has been practiced since the Middle Ages.”
Emad's letter continues: “The culmination of six or seven years of force-feeding is now taking its toll. A couple of months ago I had been given a kind of feeding formula…The formula made me vomit from 10 pm to 7 am - pieces of fat kept coming out whenever I vomited… they have begun this cruel process with [another detainee] - at 6 am he was holding a cup with vomit in it after six brutal hours of feeding. Every day is like that. If this isn’t torture…surely this is what normal people call it? By normal, I mean the normal people outside the prison, because there is no normality here.”
The most recent estimate of the number of men still on hunger strike in the prison is approximately 17. The authorities at Guantánamo stopped releasing official figures towards the end of last year, while detainees' access to lawyers has been increasingly restricted - reducing the availability of accurate information on the strike. The World Medical Association is unequivocal in its denunciation of force-feeding, stating in the Declaration of Malta (2006) that the practice is “unjustifiable”, “never ethically acceptable” and “a form of inhuman and degrading treatment” when the patient is able to make an informed and voluntary refusal of food.
Emad’s brother, Mohammed Abdallah, said: “Since my brother was rounded up and taken to Guantánamo on false pretenses, despite never having done anything wrong, our family has been devastated without him. When we read his letters describing the dreadful torture and horrific treatment that Guantanamo authorities subject him to it breaks our hearts. There is no reason at all that Emad can’t come home to us in Yemen or anywhere we can see him. Please, President Obama, let him return to us.”
Cori Crider, attorney for men in Guantanamo, said: “Although the authorities are trying to cover it up, the hunger strike at Gitmo is still going on and the military’s effort to suppress it as savage as ever. We’re fighting this brutality in federal court, but there is one man who has the power to end this pain. Obama must send cleared men like Emad home to their families at once.”