#FastForJustice: Day 4

15 October 2017

Clive Stafford Smith
Founder of Reprieve

Two of my clients in Guantanamo, Ahmed and Khalid, are currently hunger striking. This is their only means of peacefully protesting their continued detention – all they are asking for is a fair trial. The authorities now are withholding medical treatment, which is putting them at serious risk of serious organ damage, mental health problems, and even starving to death. I hope that, with you and me adopting the hunger striking on their behalf, when I get them on a legal call on Wednesday I can convince Ahmed and Khalid to pause their own strike, without damaging their principles. 

That is the end of Day 4. 96 hours without food. It’s not a pleasant experience, but I am doing okay. I’m down four pounds to 198. I’ve been feeling a bit woozy this evening. I am a bit worried that I am about to get the really nasty cold my wife Emily has.

I think the big thing today was that I was obviously losing some of my capacity to think straight. Emily tested me this afternoon: “What is My Name? Say it backwards” I got it wrong twice before I clocked it. First, I said “What is my name?” – to be even marginally correct, it would have to have been “Name my is what?” Then I said “Htims Droffats Nairda Evilc” which is my name backwards not hers. (And don’t be impressed by the fact that I know my name backwards – my maths teacher in school used to call us by that, or “Yob”, which was Boy backwards…) Only the third time around did I get it right.

I did pretty badly on the Speedy Crossword and the Killer Soduko today. I still can’t figure out where I went wrong on the latter. After a while I went about a bit of gardening to clear my head.

The mental part of this is vital. Though I am only four days on, Ahmed and Khalid are now at Day 25 of no food at all, on top of 4 years of force feeding. My friend Dr. David Nicholl direct messaged me to remind me: “Worth knowing that the natural history of an untreated hunger striker is Wernicke Korsakoff encephalopathy from thiamine deficiency so your clients will become rapidly confused, deluded and psychotic.”

So I spent some time today working on a declaration on Ahmed’s mental health issues. He began all this with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the dreadful torture he suffered in the hands of the CIA. The Senate report identifies him as one of just 17 people who were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the CIA euphemism) “without authorization” – and I have long wondered whether “authorization” is meant to make it better or worse? He cannot begin to recover from his PTSD so long as he is in US custody, continuing with the abuse.

Ahmed also suffers from “chronic dysthymia” (depression) which is hardly surprising. For him, and others, the worst part of all this is the fact that they have no way to prove their innocence. Donald Trump says he won’t let anyone go, so nothing Ahmed does makes any difference. It would, in many ways, be better to be on death row – at least a lot of folk there get a new trial and may go free.

But on top of this he is now starving. The military now wants to bully him into dropping his principled strike – they will not let him die, but they will let him go so far as to suffer organ damage (it may have happened – he’s around 90 lbs now). Then, half dead already, they will subject him to that awful forced feeding, to keep him half alive. It is just torture on top of torture.

We will file in District Court tomorrow (Monday) and hope to find a judge who will put a stop to this madness. At the very least, now that people are beginning to learn what is happening, perhaps the military will step back from the brink, as they have in the past.

#FastForJustice: we need to keep it up. Today Roger Waters was fasting, though he is on tour in Canada, and Sara Pascoe, as well as a number of others. Thank you to everyone – there are now 313 days pledged but do keep it coming. We need all the help we can get! On Wednesday I have a legal call with Ahmed Rabbani, and I will tell him how we are getting on.