Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CCR Unmasks Pentagon Lies About Guantanamo

I received this important e-mail yesterday from Vince Warren, Executive Director of Center for Constitutional Rights. It should be read in the context of the Pentagon's whitewash report on conditions at Guantanamo prison, delivered to President Obama late last week, and made public Monday.
Dear CCR Supporter,

Today, the Department of Defense issued a report that claim conditions of confinement at Guantanamo Bay uphold U.S. and international human rights law. For many of our clients, however, who have endured over seven years of arbitrary detention without charge or trial, the appalling conditions that have characterized the prison camp since its inception continue in violation of international standards to the present day.

CCR issued its own report today - "Conditions of Confinement at Guantanamo: Still in Violation of the Law" - which includes new eyewitness accounts by detainees and their attorneys.

The new report details the inhumane conditions at the base that persist despite President Obama's Executive Order of January 22, 2009, requiring humane standards of confinement at Guantanamo. These include ongoing, severe solitary confinement, other psychological abuse, incidents of violence and threats of violence from guards, religious abuse and widespread forced tube-feeding of hunger strikers. In contrast to the military's report, which appears to include very little testimony or reports from Guantanamo detainees themselves, CCR's report offers multiple cases of abuse in the last two months directly from detainees' experiences.

The report also includes a series of recommendations to ensure the conditions at Guantanamo satisfy legal standards for the humane treatment of the detainees while its closure is implemented.

Read and share "Conditions of Confinement at Guantanamo" today, and join us in encouraging President Obama to implement the recommendations offered in the report and work swiftly to close Guantanamo, prosecute individuals in federal criminal courts if necessary, or release them to their home countries, the U.S. or to safe third countries.

Yours truly,

Vincent Warren
Executive Director
Center for Constitutional Rights
Amazingly, the Reuters news story on the Pentagon review never mentioned that there was a full-blown hunger strike underway at the Guantanamo facility, where approximately 1 in 5 prisoners participating, and an untold number being force-fed by prison officials (and presumably, doctors).

The following is one view on the ethics and politics of force-feeding prisoners from an ethics expert at the American Medical Association:
Force-feeding an alert and oriented prisoner -- one strong enough to require a restraint chair -- might be a way to assert control over the prison population. It might discourage strikers, or "break" the strike. But it is not medically necessary....

The American Medical Association (AMA) has repeatedly stated opposition to force-feeding competent individuals against their will.... The World Medical Association Declaration of Malta concludes that "forced feeding contrary to an informed and voluntary refusal is...never ethically acceptable...[and] feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment....

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Matt Wynia, Director of the Institute for Ethics at the American Medical Association.
Doc Gonzo at Daily Kos noted:
Of course the US should "permit" hunger strikers to starve themselves to death, if they insist. That is the entire point of a hunger strike. It's not just some advanced form of selfish whining. It is the ultimate form of civil disobedience noncooperation. The prisoner puts the death at the hands of the prison keepers, rather than cooperate with the imprisoners. The stark reality of the imprisonment is forced into clarity. The repercussions of the prisoner forcing the power relationship to its ultimate conclusion are some of the strongest effects the prisoner can have for their position, short of setting themselves on fire.

Their right to do it is built on their right to refuse medical treatment, which is more obvious to us in our unsophisticated modern condition. But all that is just some variations on our fundamental right to refuse, to refuse to cooperate with our controllers. When the cost of refusal is our personal destruction, it's clear how high a cost we will pay to keep ourselves, what is the value of what we're keeping.

And besides, what right does the US jailer have to intervene? "Compassion", so they can continue to torture the prisoner? Some basis in "rights", the cherry-picked ones for the jailer when any and all are arbitrarily denied the prisoner?

Yeah, people lose coherency when they're starving. But they're also starving, with food within reach. The will to starve to death anyway is not some dismissible "crazy". It's the follow-through on their determination past the point of no return.

Starving oneself to death on hunger strike is not something that torturers can spin down to anything less than an ultimate moral stand with the highest stakes.


Omyma said...

Great post, as are many on your site. Keep up the important, great work.

harpie said...

Thank you for keeping on top of these issues. Your work is much appreciated. [I'm sorry about the length of this.]

My comment has to do with your post about the October 2002 meeting at Guantanamo.

You say that the JPRA discussions were underway “well before any legal memo by Bush's Office of Legal Counsel allowing (illegally) for abusive treatment of detainees. There can be no alibi that DoD was following legal advice or protected by presidential order at that point in time.”

Maybe not the DoD, but the CIA is a different story. In the May 24, 2004 Newsweek article called "The Roots of Torture", the authors mention an OLC memo to the CIA in "late fall, 2001" which "put an extremely narrow interpretation on the international anti-torture convention". This may be [one of] the memos Fredman was talking about, besides the second August 1, 2002 Bybee memo, when he says that "The DoJ has provided much guidance on this issue."

This is interesting in relation to your observation that the military members of the group seemed to be cowed by the CIA guy.

Here's the Newsweek link: http://www.globalpolicy.org/empire/un/2004/0524roots.htm

A colleague and I are keeping a Timeline of the torture issue. We have used some of your posts as sources, and will use this one as well. It's at this link, if you're interested:

Valtin said...


I very much appreciate your comments and will look deeper into the links and events you describe (as well as check out the timeline).


Anonymous said...

More on the SASC report:



Valtin said...

Anonymous posts a link to a National Journal article that seeks to debunk the SASC report on prisoner abuse by taking up the case of Jonathan Fredman, who complained that the SASC misquoted him.

I looked at this story previously, in a post entitled "Fredman's Mea Culpa, the Army Field Manual, and the Istanbul Protocols", which can be accessed here (for those who want to follow this particular controversy):

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