Guantánamo Hunger Striker Ahmed Rabbani, Left to Die by Trump, Calls for “Basic Justice – a Fair Trial or Freedom”

15.10.17

Guantanamo prisoner Ahmed Rabbani in a photo made available by his lawyers at Reprieve, and taken before his weight dropped to under 100 pounds as a hunger striker.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

It’s now nine days since the international human rights organization Reprieve issued a shocking press release, explaining that two clients at Guantánamo, the Pakistani Ahmed Rabbani, and Khalid Qassim (aka Qasim), a Yemeni, both hunger striking to protest about the injustice of their seemingly endless imprisonment without charge or trial, had told them that, since September 20, following new instructions from Donald Trump, “a new Senior Medical Officer (SMO) stopped tube-feeding the strikers, and ended the standard practice of closely monitoring their declining health.”

I immediately wrote an article about the news, and was, frankly, astonished that it took another four days for the mainstream media to respond — and when that happened, it was just the New York Times paying attention, and, to my mind, giving too much credibility to the authorities, via a spokesman who claimed that the military’s “11-year-old military policy permitting the involuntary feeding of hunger-striking detainees remained in effect.” Given the lies we have heard from the military at Guantánamo over the years, I asked, in an analysis of the New York Times article, why we should trust them.

Expanding on the story further, Reprieve, on Thursday, secured coverage in Newsweek — a description of the current situation, made in a phone call to Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, by Ahmed Rabbani, who has been at Guantánamo, without charge or trial, for just over 12 years, and who, before that, was held and tortured for 545 days in CIA “black sites” including the disgusting “black site” in Afghanistan, codenamed COBALT, which was known to the prisoners as the “dark prison.”

I hope you have time to read the article, which I’m cross-posting below, and that you will share it if you appreciate its worth. Before I post it, however, I want to say a few words about the manner in which hunger strikers have been treated at Guantánamo, why they are hunger striking, and what they hope to achieve. I completely acknowledge that “tube-feeding” or force-feeding is a horrible process, which I have frequently referred to as a form of torture, but although mentally competent prisoners are supposed to be allowed to starve themselves to death, that presupposes that they are not, in the first place, held in conditions that are legally, morally and ethically unacceptable. Since Guantánamo was established under George W. Bush, the US has claimed that a law passed the week after the 9/11 attacks, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, allows prisoners to be held at Guantánamo, but in fact holding men indefinitely without charge or trial is unacceptable, whatever the US claims, and any other country practicing it would be branded as a dictatorship.

For the hunger strikers, therefore, a third option, beyond force-feeding or starving themselves to death, is for Donald Trump to address their complaints — and to either charge them or let them go. Of the 41 men still held, just ten are facing, or have faced charges, five are approved for release but are still held, while 26 others are officially held without charge or trial. Since 2013, they have been reviewed via Periodic Review Boards, a parole-type process which led to 38 prisoners being approved for release (of whom all but two were free under President Obama), but while this was a helpful way of reassessing prisoners’ significance, it remains inadequate as a justification for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial and with no end in sight.

To send a message to Donald Trump urging him to close Guantánamo, please sign this Reprieve petition, which currently has nearly 16,000 signatures, and if you want to do more, please send a photo to the Close Guantánamo campaign that I’ve been running since 2012, and please also consider joining Clive Stafford Smith in a fast in solidarity with the prisoners.

Dear President Trump, Close Guantánamo Bay and Give Us a Fair Trial
By Ahmed Rabbani, Newsweek, October 12, 2017

I’m a taxi driver from Karachi, in Pakistan. Fifteen years ago I was sold for a bounty and taken by the U.S. military to a secret prison in Afghanistan.

They mistook me for someone called Hassan Gul, and I was tortured for over a year before they flew me to Guantánamo. There’s no disputing this — it’s in the U.S. Senate report on torture. I’ve been held here ever since then, without charge or trial.

I’ve been through a lot — but a new punitive medical regime at this prison might finally kill me.

In May 2013, without any way of defending myself or securing my freedom, I resorted to peaceful protest, and began a hunger strike.

The authorities immediately instituted rules to deal with me and others. If you lost over a fifth of your weight, they would tube-feed you, by force and in a painful way. I weighed 135 pounds when I started, so when I reached 108 pounds I had to be tube-fed.

I have tried to keep my dignity, insisting on going to force-feedings by myself, rather than being dragged to the chair by the ‘forcible cell extraction’ team.

Now, on September 20, things abruptly changed. A new punitive regime has begun, one which deprives us of the proper medical surveillance we so badly need.

A new senior medical officer (SMO) arrived, bringing in a new Trump administration policy of refusing to tube-feed anyone on hunger strike. They apparently don’t mind if people die because of the injustice here, because they figure nobody cares about Guantánamo anymore, and nobody will notice.

I’ve lost more weight than ever before — I’m well under 100 pounds — but they have stopped bringing anyone to check my vitals, weigh me, or force-feed me. They want this peaceful protest over. So they refuse us access to medical care.

The doctors here do what the new medical boss tells them. He wants me to beg him for food, but I will not. He is like a dictator.

They tell me it’s my fault if I die. But all I am asking for is basic justice — a fair trial or freedom. I know I am innocent, but I’m not allowed to prove it. I don’t want to die, but they will not succeed in breaking my strike. I will not stop demanding justice.

I have a message for President Trump. He is a businessman. The government doesn’t have a case against any of us. Instead of wasting $11 million a year on each prisoner they hold on this island by killing us, why not bring us to court where we can defend ourselves?

Then he can turn this place into a museum — a place for others to visit, to learn about the awful mistakes of the past. Trump could even charge for entry and make money.

Maybe I will die as a result of this hunger strike. Maybe I will lose my sight, and go blind — even so, in here I have nothing to see. One thing is clear: that one day, the authorities at Guantánamo will be held responsible for what they have done.

Ahmed Rabbani is a Pakistani citizen who has been held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial since September 2004. Ahmed is assisted by the human rights organization Reprieve.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

8 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, an update on the latest scandal involving Guantanamo – the assessment by long-term hunger strikers at the prison that, since Sept. 20, under new orders from Donald Trump, they are no longer being force-fed, and are being left to die if they don’t abandon their hunger strikes. Featured here is a cross-post of an article in Newsweek by former “black site” prisoner Ahmed Rabbani, who weighs under 100 pounds, but has no intention of giving up his hunger strike, because what he is seeking is “basic justice — a fair trial or freedom.” He says, “They apparently don’t mind if people die because of the injustice here, because they figure nobody cares about Guantanamo anymore, and nobody will notice.” Please prove him wrong. Read this article and share it!

  2. Tom Pettinger says...

    Thanks as always Andy for such sterling journalism. Awful but so necessary to read about.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. It’s like revisiting the prison-wide hunger strike of 2013 – something terrible happening at Guantanamo that reminds people of its existence, and the unacceptable conditions in which the men are held.

  4. PBC News & Comment: Trump Travel Ban 3.0 Blocked by Court – Peter B. Collins says...

    […] prisoner who proclaims innocence taunts Trump for ending force-feeding, Andy Worthington publishes Rabbani’s […]

  5. nick says...

    Please tell Mr Rabbani that the West is controlled by satanists. The more evil they do, the more human suffering and blood spilling they inflict, the more power satan gives them. Tell him that his physical captors are probably satanists too.

    Within the military, bizarre cults became particularly powerful, Satanists beginning with Michael Aquino at the Presidio, the best known of the cults, Dominionists at the service academies, Colorado Springs, West Point and Annapolis, all Satanist in nature, all interrelated as to issues of ascension of Satan to rule earth after the apocalypse, with one exception, the Dominionists hide their Satanist beliefs behind Christianity. veteranstoday.com/2013/01/14/ denial-of-truth-mind-control-and-satanism-in-america

    Who has allowed the Pentagon’s top control structure to go renegade? The answer is that a lot of powerful USG officials that should have done their jobs and stopped this hijacking of the American military by the World’s largest Organized Crime Syndicate. This syndicate is also the World’s largest Opium Cartel, the World’s private “bloodline” Money-changers who run almost every monetary creation and lending system. And their top leaders are known to be secret Baal worshipers continuing the same anti-human evil occult practices all the way back to ancient Babylonia. These practices include child sacrifice and mass-sacrifices of millions of innocents using wars. These parasites believe they get supernatural powers from shedding the blood of innocents while sacrificing them to Baal (Lucifer). http://www.veteranstoday.com/2015/11/07/has-the-pentagon-gone-rogue

    My website has my Christian testimony. The hidden rulers torturing him destroyed my family when I was 15. When they tried to murder me in 2014, God saved me. I was literally in His holy presence at a place called ZION. God bless you. Tell Rabbani Jesus Christ is Lord. http://www.USAdevils.com

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Ahmed has also produced art in Guantanamo – see this page from the exhibition ‘Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantánamo Bay’ – currently showing in the President’s Gallery at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York (until Jan. 26): https://www.artfromguantanamo.com/ahmed-rabbani-1/

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Patricia Ivey Salim wrote:

    Maybe someone can explain this to me.. Why aren’t these prisoners put on trial for whatever law they are accused of breaking. If found guilty, do the time, if not guilty, set free. What’s the hold up?

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Patricia. As established by the Bush administration, Guantanamo was a prison where those held had no rights whatsoever as human beings. They were not regarded as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, who can he held humanely until the end of hostilities, and neither were they to be put on trial on terrorism-related charges in federal court. A handful have been put on trial, but at Guantanamo, in military commission trials, which Dick Cheney ill-advisedly wrenched from the history books in November 2001. The Supreme Court ruled them illegal in 2006, but they have twice been revived since, although they continue to be a poor substitute for federal court trials, and have secured only eight convictions in 16 years, with half of those being overturned on appeal. In addition, most of the prisoners held are not eligible for war crimes trials, as they are generally nothing more than low-level foot soldiers, who should, therefore, has been held as prisoners of war, enabling them, by now, to have been able to properly challenge the basis of their imprisonment by arguing that the hostilities in connection with which they were apprehended – the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, the overthrow of the Taliban and the routing of al-Qaeda – came to an end many, many years ago, despite the US’s continued presence in Afghanistan. That avenue, however, has been shut off from the beginning, and instead they are held indefinitely without charge or trial, with their only practical hope of release being at the whim of the president.
    I hope this helps to explain the mess that is Guantanamo!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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