Nine Years of Hunger Strikes and Force-Feeding at Guantánamo: A Declaration in Support of Emad Hassan by Clive Stafford Smith

16.3.14

Emad Hassan, in a photograph included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011.Last week, I wrote an article, “Guantánamo Prisoner Force-Fed Since 2007 Launches Historic Legal Challenge,” about Emad Hassan, a Yemeni prisoner who is challenging the US authorities’ self-declared right to force-feed him, following a ruling in February by the appeals court in Washington D.C., allowing legal challenges to go ahead and reversing rulings made by lower court judges last summer, who believed that their hands were tied by Bush-era legislation preventing any legal challenges to the running of Guantánamo.

Emad Hassan is one of the most persistent hunger strikers at Guantánamo, and has been on a permanent hunger strike — which has also involved him being force-fed — since 2007. The irony is that, throughout most of this whole period he could have been a free man, as he — along with 74 other men, out of the 154 still held — was cleared for release from Guantánamo by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama appointed shortly after taking office in January 2009.

That he is held at all is a disgrace, but Yemenis make up 55 of the 75 cleared prisoners, and are held because of concerns about the security situation in their homeland. This is bad enough, given that this is a form of “guilt by nationality” that makes a mockery of establishing a task force review process that is supposed to lead to the release of prisoners, but when it also transpires that some of these men — like Emad — are being force-fed instead of being freed, we are in a place of such dark and surreal injustice that it appears to have no parallel.

In support of Emad’s claim, declarations were made by Clive Stafford Smith, the founder and director of Reprieve, and also by the psychiatrist Stephen Xenakis, a retired Brigadier General and Army medical corps officer with 28 years of active service, and by Steven Miles, Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. I encourage your read the experts’ opinions, but in the hope of shedding further light on the specific details of Emad’s seven years of being on a hunger strike and being force-fed, I am posting below Clive Stafford Smith’s declaration.

Be warned: it is not always an easy read, as it is clear that, since a prison-wide hunger strike in 2005, the authorities have spent time and effort working out how to   make the force-feeding process as painful and humiliating as possible in an effort to make prisoners give up their hunger strikes. Last year, when another prison-wide hunger strike erupted, similar tactics were undertaken again. As Stafford Smith notes, “after the experience of the mass hunger strike in 2013, the military authorities are going to considerable lengths to punish prisoners who take up the hunger strike now.”

I will leave you to discover the details, some of which I discussed briefly in my earlier article, but what I didn’t cover in that article was the mention of how Emad believes that the restraint chairs imported in January 2006 — which he refers to as the “torture chairs” — contributed directly to the suicides of the three men who died in June 2006 (who were all long-term hunger strikers, force-fed until their deaths), and the suicide of Adnan Latif in September 2012. As Stafford Smith described it, according to Emad, “the gratuitously painful process [of force-feeding] initiated in late 2005 or early 2006 … has contributed substantially to at least four suicides in Guantánamo.”

If you find this declaration useful, please share it. The least we can do this year is to try and shame the Obama administration into releasing the cleared prisoners — something that I believe is possible if they happen to be force-fed hunger strikers, as that entire process is not one that shows the administration, or the authorities at Guantánamo itself, in a good light.

Declaration of Clive Stafford Smith [in support of Emad Hassan's application for a preliminary injection to prevent his force-feeding]

1. My name is Clive Stafford Smith. I am an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Louisiana, as well as in the United States Supreme Court and various inferior federal courts. I have been licensed in Louisiana since 1984.

2. I am the founder and Director of Reprieve, a not-for-profit human rights organization based in London.

3. I am counsel to Mr. Hassan Abdullah Hassan listed in this action as Imad Abdullah Hassan, and known to me more familiarly as Emad. I make this declaration in support of the above-captioned matter. I do not mean for this declaration to be in any way comprehensive of the mistreatment or injury Mr. Hassan has suffered during his hunger strike and subsequent force-feeding at Guantánamo Bay.

4. It should be noted that I have not had the opportunity for Mr. Hassan to review this declaration for its accuracy.  While I try to take notes as accurately as possible when we speak, I sometimes do not get my notes back from the Privilege Review Team (PRT) for several days or even weeks after I visit Guantánamo Bay, which makes it difficult to remember the precise context of our discussion. When I speak with Mr. Hassan on the telephone, we have even more limited time.

5. I am writing this declaration some three weeks after my last meeting with Mr. Hassan. If there should ultimately be any inconsistencies between this declaration and one that Mr. Hassan subsequently executes, the latter should be considered more authoritative.  If I become aware of inconsistencies, I will amend or supplement this affidavit promptly.

6. With these caveats, I am confident that the broad facts set forth in this declaration are accurate.

7. Mr. Hassan was born in Aden, Yemen on June 26, 1979. He is an intelligent man who has learned quite good English while in US detention.

8. Mr. Hassan wishes to file a motion challenging the force feeding process that has been applied against him, and others.

Brief background to Mr. Hassan’s arrival in Guantánamo Bay

9. While Mr. Hassan feels that he has a duty peacefully to protest the treatment of all prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, he is also motivated by the injustice that has been, and continues to be, inflicted upon him personally. Therefore, a brief statement of the manner of his transport to Guantánamo Bay and his treatment there is significant to understand his motivations.

10. In June 2001, Mr. Hassan travelled from his home in Yemen to Pakistan in order to attend university at Faisalabad. He wished to study so as to be able to help his country, Yemen, where people do not often receive higher education.

11. In February 2002, following the September 11 attacks on the United States, Mr. Hassan was rounded up with many other Arab men by the Pakistani security forces, and handed over to Americans for a bounty payment.

12. I am aware of no reliable evidence that Mr. Hassan was ever even in Afghanistan until the U.S. took him there against his will.

13. Mr. Hassan was detained in Bagram and Kandahar before arriving in Guantánamo Bay in June 2002.

14. Mr. Hassan has undergone what can only be described as torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, on a number of occasions since his detention. This has included, in my view, the manner in which he has sometimes been force fed against his will.

15. Mr. Hassan has been cleared for release since 2009.

16. Mr. Hassan is approaching his thirty-fifth birthday. He has been held without trial by the U.S. for roughly twelve years, since he was just twenty-two. He has missed the opportunity to pursue his education, he has been unable to get married and raise a family and he has generally been denied all of his rights and freedoms for one third of his life, and almost all of his adult life.

Reasons for striking

17. Mr. Hassan informs me that he is on a hunger strike because — similar to President Obama — he believes that it is wrong for the US to detain prisoners, without charge or trial in Guantánamo.

18. His hunger strike is a peaceful protest, based in part upon the example of a number of people who he respects, including Mahatma Gandhi.

Hunger strike and force-feeding

19. Before Mr. Hassan arrived in Guantánamo, his average weight was somewhere around 119 pounds. He is 5’3” tall. He had no medical problems except for a degree of asthma as a child.

20. Mr. Hassan did not have any intestinal problems before he was taken to Guantánamo.

Variations among the staff

21. Mr. Hassan is emphatic that not all the staff take part, or wish to take part, in what he describes as “the torture.”

22. In 2005, for example, he describes one doctor who took detainees’ medical problems seriously and followed medical procedures to diagnose or assess his patients. Mr. Hassan met with that doctor twice. Once, this doctor visited Mr. Hassan’s cell and told him that he (the doctor) was being ordered to participate in what he referred to as “the crime” of force feeding and that he would not participate if he had the choice.  The doctor apologized to Mr. Hassan for his pain and suffering.

23. Mr. Hassan reports that a number of the staff apologize for the manner in which he is force fed. For example, more recently, one of the NCOs said, “I don’t make the rules. I am only a sergeant.”

24. A military person who is very abusive may change, too. Mr. Hassan tells the story of a guard who “changed 180 degrees.”. Originally, everyone had to be alert when the guard would come onto the block, as he was someone who would summon the FCE [Forced Cell Extraction] team or impose punishment for any minor thing. If a prisoner left a small amount of rubbish in his cell, or even just stared at the guard, it would be, “Discipline! Seven days!” The guard made it clear that he felt that by being super tough he would gain promotion.

25. However, Mr. Hassan was taken to hospital over Ramadan, and when he came back after a month he found that the guard had totally changed. He was a different person. He would take food from one prisoner to another, rather than waste it. He would make copies of the news received by one prisoner, so that the others could share it. He would even accept the offer of a small piece of chocolate from a prisoner — something that he would previously have rejected with great suspicion. As a result of this change, no prisoner gave him any trouble: he showed the prisoners respect, so they showed him respect in turn.

26. In short, Mr. Hassan insists that not all the guards are the same, and he does not wish to tar everyone with the same brush. That said, though, he lays the blame for his torturous experience on the authorities who have gone out of their way to torture him, and to inflict cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CIDT) on him.

2005-2006 Hunger strike

27. Mr. Hassan took part in a short hunger strike in June and July 2005, which he had ended when the Colonel [Mike Bumgarner, at the time the warden of Guantánamo] agreed to comply in various ways with the Geneva Conventions, including allowing the prisoner council.

28. Mr. Hassan then began his first major hunger strike around August 8, 2005, precipitated by the JTF-GTMO authorities reneging on their promise to allow the council.

29. He continued this strike for around nine months, until February 6, 2006.

30. The force feeding began for him around August 25, 2005. He was initially force fed in the detainee hospital. There were, at that time, some 32 prisoners on strike who faced force feeding.

31. The process used included the following:

a. The feeding tube was inserted and left in for a month because, as the SMO (senior medical officer) explained to the detainees, it was not safe to put in and take out as this could cause medical complications, and could hurt the aesophagus and the stomach.

b. The feeding took place in the detainee hospital for the medical safety of the prisoners.

c. Tubes that were best suited to the detainee were used for feeding. Mr Hassan was generally given a Number 8 tube.

32. Around November 2005, six of the hunger strikers (including Mr. Hassan) began to be treated in a different way. This was an experimental process that was done to them in a gratuitously unpleasant way. The process included the following:

a. The detainees were strapped to hospital beds for feeding.

b. Larger size tubes were used. These tubes were too big to go into the men’s nostrils without undue pain.

c. The tubes were also pulled out more often. This process caused blood to flow like cutting a vein.

d. At this time, a funnel was used to channel the liquid into the tube.

33. This procedure appeared to Mr. Hassan and others to be a form of Waterboarding. Indeed, one detainee (Hisham) could not breath when the authorities did this to him. When it was done to Hisham again the next night, he passed out and was taken to the main hospital where he was in critical condition. He was on oxygen and a heart monitor. One of the JTF-GTMO staff informed Mr. Hassan and others, “He is in God’s hands.” Fortunately, after two days he was stable.

34. This force feeding experiment was terminated after this life-threatening incident.

35. Around December 2005, Papa Block was turned into a hospital and the men being force fed were split up, with roughly 18 in P Block and 14 in the Hospital.

Torturous methods for making it less ‘convenient’ to go on a peaceful hunger strike

36. Some time in late 2005 or early 2006, the military decided that they would use other means to try to put an end to the peaceful hunger strikes.

37. The detainees were told that they were to stop the hunger strike, and agree to eat, or new methods would be used on them that they would not like.

38. It is common knowledge among the detainees that the Guantánamo authorities have varied the manner of the force feeding process because they want — in the word of one American general — to make it less “convenient” for the prisoners to go on hunger strike.

39. The techniques used to make it more painful are varied.

40. One, they began pulling the tube out after each feeding and forcing it back in for the next feeding. This took place twice a day.

41. Two, they would use larger tubes. While they had generally used a Number 8 tube on Mr. Hassan, they started using Number 14 tubes, which barely fit in his nostril.

42. Three, they began using what came to be known as the “Torture Chair”. Mr. Hassan believes he was the first detainee who was fed on the Torture Chair; his hands, legs, waist, shoulders, and head were strapped down tightly.

43. The first time it happened, he was shocked and he fought to resist.  He was able to shake his head until the staff used the pressure points under his jaw and behind his ears to keep him still.  They also pushed his fingers back, and pulled at his nostrils.

44. At this time, there were no cameras used during the force feeding process, so there was no record made of these torturous forms of abuse.

45. The next day — the second day of his ‘Torture Chair’ experience — the JTF-GTMO staff forcibly gave him a sedative to keep him from resisting.

46. Four, on the Torture Chair the men were also given an anti-constipation drug which would cause them to defecate on themselves while still being fed. They were not given clean clothes. Mr. Hassan says that he finds it difficult to talk about this even today, several years later. “I could not think someone who called himself human did this to me,” he said to me on February 5, 2014.

47. People with haemorrhoids would leave blood on the chair and the linens would not always be changed before the next feeding. In Mr. Hassan’s words, “The staff showed us no mercy.”

48. Five, they began forcing much more liquid into the prisoners. They began feedings with 1500ml of formula called Two-Cal — four cans in the morning and four in the night, each time mixed with 700ml of water. Once each force feeding was finished, they filled the feeding bag with 50ml of an anti-constipation medication and 450ml of water. This method would accelerate the stomach function and made the men defecate on themselves in the feeding chair. Then the staff added another 700ml of water. When Mr. Hassan dared to ask why they were prolonging his suffering, a medical professional answered sarcastically, “to wash the feeding bag.”

49. The amount and speed of the force feeding has varied over time and with the detainee. Mr. Hassan is currently facing a regime that is applied in various forms to only five prisoners, as mentioned below. However, I represent a number of other prisoners who are on hunger strike at this time, and I spoke in the last week to another individual who informed me about his current force feeding. He currently receives two cans of Ensure at each feed. The Ensure is 8 fl oz (236 ml) each, and when they prepare it they add water to it, normally between 200 and 300 ml with each can. Therefore, the nutrient part of the force-feeding includes up to about 1100 ml of liquid. If he is then given the anti-constipation medicine (which he may be given) that would add another 500 ml of liquid. This may then be flushed through with a final draught of water as mentioned above, with the whole process (involving perhaps nearly 2300 ml) taking roughly 20 minutes, and rarely more than 30 minutes. This detainee has repeatedly requested that the process should be slowed down, over two hours, as is done with some prisoners, but his plea has fallen on deaf ears.

50. Six, they sped the process up. This process was completed in 30-45 minutes, which is much faster than before, and much more painful because of the speed. After this, Mr. Hassan and the other strikers would be left in the chair for upwards of two hours. This was particularly difficult.  Finally the staff would pull the tube out of the nose again, ready to force it back in for the next session.

51. If Mr. Hassan vomited on himself at any time during the procedure, what he terms “the atrocity” would start all over again. He would not usually be allowed to wash the vomit off before it began again.

52. Because of his weakened state, Mr. Hassan must be fed slowly.  If he is fed faster, he vomits up what has just been pumped into his stomach and suffers severe gastric pain.

53. If a detainee refused to go to the Chair, he would be compelled to go to his feeding session with the FCE team. This takes 30 minutes, leaving only one and a half hours left for the feeding.

54. All of this happened to Mr. Hassan and other prisoners every day, twice daily.

55. Early on in this new and more abusive phase, the military authorities took Mr. Hassan and two others to another block so that others would see what was being done to them. This was obviously done as a deterrent to scare others into not hunger striking.

56. Also the medical staff had stated that Mr. Hassan’s left nostril should not be used for the force feeding. However, the JTF-GTMO staff who were doing the force feeding ignored this and used the left nostril.

57. One morning, Mr. Hassan was taken in a van to meet his lawyers. He found himself vomiting in the transportation vehicle. It was such a terrible experience that he decided to stop his hunger strike. It was more than Mr. Hassan could take. He ate dinner, and the escorts told the block guards that he ate dinner so there was no reason to force feed him. The block guards informed the nurse.

58. It was, Mr. Hassan reports, as if the nurse did not hear the words. The nurse said, “Put him on the chair!” Mr. Hassan spent five hours on the feeding chair, and a number of cans of liquid were emptied into his stomach between the hours of 7:00 PM and midnight. The guards then took him back to his cell.

59. A guard told Mr. Hassan a doctor would see him. He had not seen a doctor for a long time. This doctor arrived as Mr. Hassan was being strapped to the feeding chair and asked him whether he would end his hunger strike. Mr. Hassan told the doctor that he had wanted to see a doctor for a long time due to his ill health and stomach problems, but the doctor cut Mr. Hassan off and asked again if he would end the strike. Mr. Hassan did not reply.

60. The doctor then began pushing a size 14 tube into his nose, a process that took about ten minutes. The doctor continued asking whether he would end his hunger strike. It was extremely painful, and at one point one of the guards pointed at the blood on the tube. Finally, the doctor forcefully pushed the tube in, and the tube hit the back of Mr. Hassan’s nose. Mr. Hassan was determined not to scream, but his eyes were running.  Mr. Hassan says that is it difficult to describe what he endured in those moments, either physically or mentally.

61. The new abusive force feeding method in early 2006 went on for many days.  At one point, Mr. Hassan asked the nurses if they were enjoying this, and they laughed as if he were joking, and said “yes.”

62. Mr. Hassan told them that one day they would face judgment. This had no effect on them. Indeed, there was one nurse in particular who seemed to enjoy the pain that he was inflicting.

63. One of the hunger striking detainees was moaning while he was going through this process. The guards told the detainee to be quiet. The sadistic nurse said, “Let him moan.”

64. A female guard questioned him about how he seemed to take pleasure in this, and he replied, “It’s none of your business.”

65. For a while this went on as if it were a formal experiment. The detainees were under 24 hour surveillance, and the JTF-GTMO staff were taking close notes.

66. The JTF-GTMO staff added an additional element of sleep deprivation. They would come to the detainees’ cells and knock on the cell window every five minutes or so. If the detainee did not respond, they would come into the cell.

67. The air conditioning was turned up and the detainees were deprived of a blanket. This was particularly difficult for the hunger strikers, as they inevitably felt the cold more than someone who was eating.

68. Mr. Hassan has explained to me that the pain of the new Torture Chair regime was the reason why many of the hunger strikers stopped their protest at this time.  Mr. Hassan himself resisted the pain for 37 days during that strike.

69. Only a few other detainees withstood it for this long, including the three men who ended up committing suicide in 2006. It seems that this experience led to them committing suicide. “I did not consider suicide,” Mr. Hassan told me on February 5, 2014. “Others did talk about this. I do not blame them for it, though I do not believe in doing it myself.”

70. Mr. Hassan describes what sound like hallucinatory episodes during this process. “As you spin a glass at speed, it becomes a blur of colors,” he told me on February 5, 2014. “That is what I would see.”

71. At about this time, Mr. Hassan’s weight fell to around 78 lbs. This was the lowest weight he has recorded thus far.

72. After roughly two weeks of this process, Mr. Hassan developed pancreatitis. Indeed, since that time, as a result of his force feeding, he has suffered from pancreatitis on more than one occasion. Pancreatitis is a life threatening condition.

73. On this first occasion, Mr. Hassan was taken to the big hospital for five days or so. He was placed on an IV, and was given some kind of drug that he assumes was an antibiotic. He cannot know for sure, and he does not know what drug it was, as the medical staff refused to tell him (the patient) what the drug was that they were giving him.

74. For about three days, he could not sleep for the pain that he was going through. The pain he suffered then was unlike any other pain he had ever experienced. He understood from some of the staff that he came close to dying from this infection.

75. Mr. Hassan spent another seven days in the detainee hospital. When he was 29 days into the new, even more abusive procedures, they punished him by taking him to Oscar Block and they started force feeding him again.

76. Mr. Hassan reports that at this time a sympathetic nurse tried to persuade him to give up his protest. “680, you have to stop now. They will send you back to Oscar, and do the same to you as before.”

77. This is what happened. By then there were eight strikers in Oscar Block who were under a strict punishment regime. They were not allowed to talk to each other, upon pain of discipline. The JTF-GTMO authorities used loud fans to prevent any talking. The detainees were refused the right to communal prayer so long as they were on hunger strike. The guards would bang the cells all day and all night to prevent sleep. The air conditioning was turned to very cold again.

78. Mr. Hassan did manage to get a message to the other strikers. “They will not stop. They will keep on torturing you.”

79. Mr. Hassan ended this hunger strike on February 6, 2006. His decision to end the strike was not voluntary, but was caused by his abusive treatment at the hands of the JTF-GTMO authorities.

Mr. Hassan’s non-violent hunger strike protest from 2007 to the Present Day

80. In July 2006, Mr. Hassan was taken to Romeo Block with Ahmed Errachidi, a Moroccan detainee [released in 2007] who had lived in the United Kingdom where he had been committed to a mental hospital due to his bipolar disorder. Along with Mr. Errachidi, Mr. Hassan was accused of trying to talk other detainees into another peaceful protest at their treatment.

81. Mr. Hassan again stopped eating for a time. However, the JTF-GTMO authorities sent their ‘cultural advisor’ to him to persuade him to eat again, telling him that he would end up back in hospital.

82. Other prisoners told Mr. Hassan of the new force feeding procedures that had been introduced since February 2006. It continued to be as abusive as before but now the prisoner would be left in the Chair for two hours.

83. Mr. Hassan was given a disgusting form of food in Romeo, a mashed up loaf of indeterminate food. He did not know what it was. He did eat some of it at the time, though.

84. Mr. Hassan once again began hunger striking in 2007.

85. Mr. Hassan has been on hunger strike continually since that time. At this point, Mr. Hassan has been on what has been a continuous hunger strike for almost seven years.

86. Throughout the past seven years, Mr. Hassan has suffered with chronic pancreatitis and multiple hospitalizations stemming from the force feeding techniques.

87. Mr. Hassan has suffered from pain that has been caused by particular variations in the hunger strike procedure. For example, his illness has included attacks brought on by use of the nutritional supplement Jevity, which contains high levels of fat — a trigger for pancreatitis.

88. Pulling out the tube now is much harder on Mr. Hassan than before. One nostril is sometimes totally closed, and he has sinus problems in the other. For example, one evening it was particularly difficult to get it into the right nostril. There was a new nurse as well; the tube went the wrong way (coming out into his mouth), which was very painful.

89. The force feeding regime has not got any less torturous since the introduction of the gratuitously painful process initiated in late 2005 or early 2006. This process has contributed substantially to at least four suicides in Guantánamo.

90. The fourth was Adnan Latif. Mr. Hassan knew him well, and had been in the same cell block as him. Mr. Hassan had been teaching him English. Mr. Latif was intelligent and wanted to learn to better himself. He was particularly depressed because he missed his kids so much. His son had been only about four years old when Mr. Latif was taken from him, and Mr. Latif used to gaze at his photograph every day. A mental health doctor told the JTF-GTMO authorities not to take him to Camp V for punishment, but this advice was ignored and Mr. Latif committed suicide.

Doctors’ complicity in torture / CIDT

91. Mr. Hassan insists that the doctors at Guantánamo do not protect his health or interests. He has related to me that the doctors’ only object appears to be to find ways to make the detainees bend to the military’s will.

92. They systematically make the force feeding process gratuitously painful, by forcing the liquid down the men’s noses faster, by speeding up the flow of liquid, by using a bigger tube, and by pulling the 110 centimeter tube out of his nostril after every feed and then forcing it back in.

93. Mr. Hassan is indignant at some of the Guantánamo doctors’ refusal to tell him — the patient — what medications he is being required to take.

The abuse of FCE on hunger strikers

94. Various of the hunger strikers are subjected to the FCE team to go to force feeding. They are genuinely being forced to be fed, and this involves the team of roughly a dozen military personnel. Some five of them rush into the detainee’s cell, force him to the ground, shackle him, beating him in the process and dragging him out of the cell to take him to the force feeding area.

95. The FCE team had been using a ‘board’ to take the prisoner there. However, recently the FCE team has had new procedures and has carried the prisoner – which is much more painful on the person being carried.

96. There had been a kind of informal agreement that while the prisoners do not wish to go voluntarily for something that is clearly involuntary (force feeding), they will not have to undergo being beaten up in order to make that point. However, the JTF-GTMO authorities now often ignore this, and order the prisoner to undergo the full, worst treatment, in order to show the prisoners how the peaceful hunger strike should not be “convenient.”

97. For example, recently ISN 722 ([Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Syrian prisoner] who is in a wheel chair, and whose health is very bad) was recently going to the Torture Chair, and was willing to simply go with the FCE team voluntarily. However, they refused to allow this, and rushed into his cell, pinning him to the floor. They were shouting “stop resisting!” while they did this, and while they shackled him, before dragging him off to the Chair.

98. Currently, according to the Assistant Officer in Charge (AOIC) on February 3, 2014, if the detainee allows the FCE team to take him to the Chair ‘walking’ he will be allowed Rec[reation time]. If, on the other hand, he does not agree to this, he will face additional punishment by having his Rec taken away.

A New Punishment regime for going on a peaceful Hunger Strike

99. Particularly after the experience of the mass hunger strike in 2013, the military authorities are going to considerable lengths to punish prisoners who take up the hunger strike now. This punishment comes on top of the gratuitously painful practices that were being used to make hunger striking less “convenient.”

100. If a detainee is found to be on strike in Camp VI, that detainee is transferred to Camp V, which is the punishment camp for those who are not considered sufficiently ‘compliant’ with the wishes of the JTF-GTMO authorities.

101. More specifically, the recent practice has been to take the detainee to Camp V Echo, which is the most unpleasant cell block in the whole prison. The cells in Camp V Echo are almost all steel — the bed, the floor, the walls, the ceiling and the door. The cells can be very cold, which is much harder to bear when you are on hunger strike.

102. There is no toilet, only a hole in the ground, which is close to the wall and therefore makes it particularly difficult to squat to use it. When one is on hunger strike, it is likely that the bowels will not be operating properly. This can make using the toilet difficult under any circumstances, but particularly so when forced to use a toilet that is difficult to use at the best of times.

103. Mr. Hassan and others state that there is much more that could be said about Camp V Echo. It is, they say, a terrible place.

104. Once they spend a few days in Camp V Echo, the new hunger strikers are generally moved to another block in Camp V, and they will stay there until they agree to come off their strike.

105. It is clear to the detainees that the experience, first, of Camp V Echo, and then of Camp V generally is intended to coerce the hunger strikers to give up their peaceful protest.

Special rules for half a dozen Detainees

106. The last time I saw him, Mr. Hassan was around 85 pounds. His health is very bad.

107. There are five of the hunger striking detainees who are treated differently from the others. Mr. Hassan (ISN 680) is one of them. The others are 042 [Abdul Rahman Shalabi], 171 [Abu Bakr Alahdal], 178 [Tareq Baada], and 682 [Ghassan al-Sharbi].

108. The authorities do not require Mr. Hassan to go by FCE to be force fed, although there are currently — as of my last conversation with him — some nine hunger strikers who were being taken to force feeding by FCE.

109. For a while, Mr. Hassan would be fed only once per day. Every night around 10:00 PM, he would be fed for four hours, 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM. He was sometimes allowed to sit on the soft chair instead of the tortuous feeding chair because he was unable to sit on the feeding chair for more than two hours.

The use of the drug Reglan

110. For many months, the JTF-GTMO staff gave Mr. Hassan Reglan for his nausea.  It was not a medication that he wanted because he felt that it made him feel crazy.

111. He relates that during this time, he would sit on his bed, legs folded, thinking that he was talking to the nurse, but he actually found that he was talking to himself.

112. Mr. Hassan also describes numbness in the lower part of his body while being on Reglan.

113. Treatment with Reglan for more than twelve weeks is contra-indicated. Mr. Hassan believes that he was on Reglan from 2005 until late 2007, although he was not always told when it was being given to him so this is only his best guess at the extent of his exposure to the drug.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America the foregoing is true and correct.

Clive Stafford Smith

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).

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11 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, the photo of Emad didn’t show, so I posted the following comment:

    And this is Emad, photographed at Guantanamo many years ago. He obviously doesn’t look so young, or so well now, after seven years of force-feeding. Everyone in a position of power in the US who is responsible for not getting him freed ought to be ashamed: http://www.closeguantanamo.org/dyn/scld/300.jpeg

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Giacomella Jackie Milesi Ferretti wrote:

    I share it Andy, and am reading it!! Thanks!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Giacomella. As I say, it is a story that ought to be a source of profound shame to everyone in the US who has been in position to do something about it, but has done nothing. Emad was approved for release four years ago, and all that time, instead of being put on a plane and sent home to his family in Yemen, he has been force-fed every day.

  4. David Knopfler says...

    Shared on Facebook. Clive’s declaration makes for very tough reading.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, David. Yes, I agree. That’s what I felt when I was proof-reading and formatting it yesterday, but I also understood that the uncompromising nature of the declaration is not only truthful, but also necessary to try and make the Obama administration aware that a gross injustice is ongoing every single day that Emad, and others like him, are held.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Joan Stallard wrote:

    It is incomprehensible to me that they can withstand that kind of punishment. Their noses and throats must be so damaged and the mental strain must be all but impossible to bear.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I find it hard to comprehend such long-lasting resistance, Joan, and what it must do to the prisoners mentally and physically. But I think the only way people like Emad can survive it is that they turn the resistance into the driver of their lives. They define themselves through their resistance.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Zilma L. Nunes wrote:

    on one hand they keep them in jail , on the other side they don’t leave them starving, really incomprehensible…

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it’s a contradiction that no one in power wants to address, Zilma, because there is only one logical answer, and that is to let them go, as they said they wanted to over four years ago.

  10. Thomas says...

    It hardly helps America’s public image to torture and force feed people, even more so when they are almost certainly innocent.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Thomas. Yes, I agree completely. Even for those who, for whatever reason, don’t care about the individuals being treated so appallingly, the continued existence of the prison, the failure to release prisoners the US says it no longer wants to hold, and, in some cases, the force-feeding of those who are protesting the injustice in the only manner available to them, is thoroughly damaging to America’s reputation abroad.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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