My New Article for Al Jazeera English: The Struggle to Stop the Trump Administration’s Potentially Deadly Neglect of Guantánamo Hunger Strikers


An image of Guantanamo by Sami al-Haj, as reproduced by British artist Lewis Peake in 2008, based on a drawing by Sami that the Pentagon censors refused to allow the public to see. The drawing, one of a series of five, was commissioned by Sami's lawyers at the lawyer-led international human rights organization Reprieve.I’m delighted to report that Al Jazeera English have just published an article I wrote for them, Guantánamo detainee: US changed force-feeding policy, which I hope you have time to read, and will share if you find it informative.

The article came out of the shocking news announced by the human rights organization Reprieve six weeks ago, when they reported that they had been told that the authorities at Guantánamo were no longer force-feeding long-term hunger strikers, as had been happening for ten years — an announcement that I wrote about at the time in an article entitled, Trump’s Disturbing New Guantánamo Policy: Allowing Hunger Strikers to Starve to Death.

Force-feeding is akin to torture, as medical experts have long established, but, as I have been mentioning since this story broke, it surely cannot be acceptable for men who have been held for up to 16 years without ever being charged or tried to be allowed to starve to death, and there should, therefore, be another response, one sought by the prisoners themselves, who are asking either to be charged or released, a not unreasonable request after so long.

I began this article a month ago, after Reprieve submitted an emergency motion calling on a judge to tell the Trump administration to allow an independent medical expert to visit the prison to assess the health of their client, Ahmed Rabbani, but it has taken so long to complete because the government then dragged its heels responding, and then denied all Rabbani’s claims. After speaking to Rabbani by phone, Reprieve then refuted the government’s claims in a submission on Friday, and we are now awaiting a ruling by the judge, District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington, D.C.

As I noted above, I do hope you have time to read this article, and will share it if you find it useful. It is, I think, extremely important that Donald Trump, who has behaved with either indifference or hostility in relation to Guantánamo since taking office in January, is no longer allowed to continue down either path, both of which show complete contempt for the men still held at the prison.

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 Donald Trump No! Please Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2017), 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.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, introducing and linking to my new article for Al Jazeera English, ‘Guantanamo detainee: US changed force-feeding policy,’ which looks at the case of long-term hunger striker Ahmed Rabbani, who reported to his lawyers at Reprieve six weeks ago that the authorities were no longer feeding or even monitoring the health of long-term hunger strikers.
    A month ago, Reprieve submitted an emergency motion to the District Court in Washington, D.C., asking Judge Royce Lamberth to order the government to allow an independent medical expert to visit the prison to assess Rabbani’s health, but the government then refused to respond, and, when they did, refuted all Rabbani’s claims. Reprieve has not submitted a further rebuttal of the government’s claims, and we are now awaiting a ruling.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    The article has been featured prominently on Al Jazeera’s US & Canada News page, with a headline advertising it that’s much more powerful than “Guantanamo detainee: US changed force-feeding policy”; namely, “Hunger-striking detainee ‘less than 40kg'”:

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Meena B Sharma wrote:

    Andy it really is very painful to read … “According to Reprieve, another client, Khalid Qassim, a Yemeni who has been at Guantanamo since 2002, told lawyers that the medical staff are no longer monitoring or recording the meals the prisoners miss.” … it is a slow death! US is not going to stop torturing these detainees … hell to US!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it’s a truly dreadful situation for the men, Meena – and the US is trying to cover up what it’s doing. The Chief Medical Officer painted a picture of a caring well-run facility struggling to cope with troublesome, lying prisoners, and the Justice Department, as usual, backed them up 100%. From Bush through Obama to now, the Civil Division of the DoJ that deals with Guantanamo has persistently done all it can to prevent anything resembling scrutiny of what’s taking place at the prison, and anything resembling justice for the men held there.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone taking an interest in this story. It’s sad to realize that, although Reprieve got a lot of interest in it after it was first reported, back in the first week of October, and kept that interest going with their ‘Fast for Justice’ and by launching a petition calling on Trump to let independent medical experts into Guantanamo (and to close the prison once and for all), the media lost interest when the DoJ started stonewalling after Reprieve submitted its emergency petition on Ahmed Rabbani’s behalf. Normally responses are required with a week, so that would have meant DoJ submitting a response by Oct. 23, but they delayed it until Oct. 27, and then it wasn’t publicly released until Nov. 7., and the result is that everyone except me has lost interest, and the pushback by the administration is such that most of the mainstream media is probably wavering about which side – the prisoners or the Senior Medical Officer and the DoJ – is telling the truth.
    As always, though, when it comes to Guantanamo, the only reliable position is to be extremely wary of trusting what the authorities say. After all, it’s still them running a prison that fails to comply with the most basis rules regarding imprisonment – that you should either have been convicted of a crime, or be a prisoner of war held in compliance with the Geneva Conventions.
    Reprieve’s petition is here, and it currently has over 23,000 signatures:

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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