Hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees have filed a motion in US federal court to stop them being force-fed and force-medicated.
The motion, brought by Guantanamo’s last British resident Shaker Aamer, Nabil Hadjarab, Ahmed Belbacha and Abu Wa’el Dhiab – all of whom have been cleared for release - was filed in a Washington D.C. federal court on Sunday by legal charity and counsel for the men, Reprieve, along with co-counsel Jon B. Eisenberg. It asks that the court rule to stop force-feeding in the prison and stop force-medicating prisoners, particularly with Reglan, a drug used by the US during the force-feeding process that when used for extended periods of time can cause severe neurological disorders, including one that mimics Parkinson’s disease.
In a declaration that accompanies the motion Ahmed Belbacha, who is currently being force-fed, says: “I am participating in this hunger strike of my own free choice…hunger striking is the sole peaceful means that I have to protest my indefinite detention.” Nabil Hadjarab, also being force-fed, said: “I do not want to die, but I am prepared to. All I am asking is that I be given the choice whether to eat.”
In the Standard Operating Procedure, which details the US method for force-feeding and was recently disclosed to Al Jazeera, the use of Reglan is recommended during force-feeding. Medical studies into the drug have determined that prolonged use of Reglan also is linked to a high rate of tardive dyskinesia (TD), a potentially irreversible and disfiguring disorder characterized by involuntary movements of the face, tongue, or extremities.
The hunger strike at Guantanamo is entering its sixth month. Of the 166 men still detained in the US prison – 86 of whom have been cleared for release – at least 120 are estimated to be on hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention. Though figures are revised regularly the US now says that it is force-feeding 44 of the men. UK Prime Minister David Cameron recently raised the case of Shaker Aamer with President Obama and it is the repeatedly stated policy of the British government that Shaker should be returned home to his family in London, yet he remains detained.
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and counsel for the men, said: “After nearly a dozen years of limbo, the last thing my clients feel they have left is the basic dignity of choosing what goes into their bodies. For the US military to strip this final right from them is appalling – which is why everyone from the head of the American Medical Association to President Obama has condemned force-feeding. Nabil and the other prisoners need Obama to wake up to the crisis in Guantánamo, which is the worst he will face of his presidency. History will closely study how these men were treated.”
Jon B. Eisenberg, an appellate attorney in Oakland, California who is working with Reprieve on this motion, said: “Force-feeding of prisoners is inhumane and a violation of medical ethics. When it is done for the purpose of keeping Guantanamo detainees alive so that they may continue to be held indefinitely without a trial of any sort, it is nothing short of grotesque. President Obama has himself condemned the force-feeding, but he has not seen fit to stop it. His deeds have not matched his soaring rhetoric.”
Notes to editors
- For further information and the full text of the motion and accompanying declaration, please contact Clemency Wells or Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s Press Office: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com / +44 (0) 207 553 8161
- The full text of the motion and the declarations of Cori Crider, Steven H Miles MD and Stephen Xenakis MD are available at the links below.