At a press conference, Pres. Obama answered questions about the closing of Guantanamo detention center and the hunger strike that started almost a month ago and now involves 100 of the 166 detainees. “I don’t want these individuals to die,” Obama said, “Obviously the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this?”
Force feeding isn’t the answer, it violates their human rights. In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the American Medical Association stated that “force feeding of detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession.”
In the letter (AMA President Dr. Jeremy) Lazarus advised Hagel that the AMA opposes force-feeding a detainee who is competent to decide for himself whether he wants to eat.
“Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions,” Lazarus said, adding that the AMA took the same position on force-feeding Guantánamo prisoners in 2009 and 2005.
“The AMA has long endorsed the World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo, which is unequivocal on the point: ‘Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.’
The procedure is carried out by corpsmen, enlisted sailors trained to carry out medical procedures, usually supervised by a doctor or a nurse. It is unknown who determines which prisoner is to be force fed. The prisoner is strapped to a chair and his head, arms and legs restrained. A feeding tube is forced through the nose into the stomach and liquid nutrient (Ensure) is poured through the tube. This can be quite painful since it is being done involuntarily.
In an article at FDL’s Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola enumerated the actions Pres. Obama could have taken and didn’t
At any moment in the past months, Obama could have, according to Human Rights First, appointed “a high-level White House official with responsibility to ensure timely and effective implementation of the president’s plan to close Guantanamo.” It has not been done. Obama could have directed the secretary of defense, in “concurrence with the secretary of state and in consultation with the director of national intelligence, to certify detainee transfers and issue national security waivers, to the fullest extent possible consistent with applicable law.” To the public’s knowledge, that has not been attempted.
Obama tied his hand behind his back when the executive branch issued a moratorium on releasing Yemeni prisoners. Ninety of the 166 prisoners in Guantanamo are Yemeni. Twenty-five of the Yemeni prisoners have been cleared for release by Obama’s own review task force he had setup by executive order in 2009.
The Yemen government is demanding Yemeni prisoners be returned to Yemen. Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, president of Yemen, has said, “We believe that keeping someone in prison for over 10 years without due process is clear-cut tyranny. The United States is fond of talking democracy and human rights. But when we were discussing the prisoner issue with the American attorney general, he had nothing to say.”
Obama could direct the secretary of defense to initiate Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings that were supposed to take place to determine if prisoners no longer posed a threat. As HRF described, “The executive order mandated that each detainee shall have an initial review, consisting of a PRB hearing, no later than March 7, 2012. Yet, nearly nine months after the deadline, not even a single PRB hearing is known to have been completed.”
Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! spoke with Carlos Warner, an attorney with the Federal Public Defender of the Northern District of Ohio, who represents 11 Guantánamo prisoners.
Full transcript is here
“Unfortunately, they’re held because the president has no political will to end Guantánamo,” Warner says. “The president has the authority to transfer individuals if he believes that it’s in the interests of the United States. But he doesn’t have the political will to do so because 166 men in Guantánamo don’t have much pull in the United States. But the average American on the street does not understand that half of these men, 86 of the men, are cleared for release.”
Now, Obama does need Congress’ help to close Gitmo. He needs Congress’ help (though didn’t, when Eric Holder initially decided to try the 9/11 plotters in NY) to try the actual terrorists in civilian courts, to get them in Florence SuperMax in cells down the hall from Faisal Shahzad and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, whom he cites.
But most of the detainees at Gitmo won’t ever be tried in civilian courts, either because they were tortured so badly they couldn’t be tried without also admitting we tortured them (and, presumably, try the torturers), or because we don’t have a case against them.
Trying detainees who don’t pose a threat in civilian courts won’t solve the problem as they’re not guilty of any crime.
Moreover, Obama dodges what his Administration has done himself to keep detainees in Gitmo, notably the moratorium on transferring detainees to Yemen and the appeals of Latif and Uthman’s habeas cases so as to have the legal right to keep people based solely on associations and obviously faulty intelligence documents.
Obama doesn’t mention that part of Gitmo’s legacy. Obama says 10 years have elapsed and we should be able to move beyond the fear keeping men at Gitmo.
3 years have elapsed since he issued the moratorium on Yemeni transfers; 19 months have elapsed since he killed Anwar al-Awlaki, purportedly (though not really) the big threat in Yemen. It’s time to move on in Yemen, as well as generally.
Congress may have blocked Pres. Obama from closing the prison, which he signed into law, it didn’t stop him from treating those who are there humanely with dignity, especially those who have been held with no trails because there is no evidence to charge them. But force feeding the hunger strikers because he doesn’t want them to die? Outrageous. How about stop treating those who can be released as prisoners, let them contact their families through the Red Cross. Better yet let those who can go home.