NEWLY declassified notes taken by a lawyer of meetings with hunger-striking detainees at the Guantanamo Bay US 'war on terror' detention camp detail the "brutal treatment" of inmates, the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) said today.
Lawyer Julia Tarver recently visited the US Navy base in Cuba to interview clients Yousef Al Shehri, Abduhl-Rahman Shalabi and Majid Al Joudi, who are currently on a hunger strike.
According to CCR, which lists Ms Tarver as a "cooperating counsel", up to 200 prisoners have participated in the hunger strike that began in August.
The Pentagon puts the current number of hunger-striking detainees at 24, including seven who were force-fed at the hospital.
"Large tubes - the thickness of a finger - were viewed by detainees as objects of torture. They were forcibly shoved up the detainees' noses and down into their stomachs. ... No anesthesia or sedative was provided," Ms Tarver said in notes released by the CCR in a statement.
"In front of Guantanamo's physicians - including the head of the detainee hospital - the guards took NG (nasogastric) tubes from one detainee, and with no sanitisation whatsoever, reinserted (them) into the nose of a different detainee," the notes said.
"When these tubes were reinserted, the detainees could see the blood and stomach bile from other detainees remaining on the tubes," the notes said.
Tough U.S. Steps in Hunger Strike at Camp in Cuba
By TIM GOLDEN
Published: February 9, 2006
New York Times
United States military authorities have taken tougher measures to force-feed detainees engaged in hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after concluding that some were determined to commit suicide to protest their indefinite confinement, military officials have said.
In recent weeks, the officials said, guards have begun strapping recalcitrant detainees into "restraint chairs," sometimes for hours a day, to feed them through tubes and prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward. Detainees who refuse to eat have also been placed in isolation for extended periods in what the officials said was an effort to keep them from being encouraged by other hunger strikers.
The measures appear to have had dramatic effects. The chief military spokesman at Guantanamo, Lt. Col. Jeremy M. Martin, said yesterday that the number of detainees on hunger strike had dropped to 4 from 84 at the end of December.
Some officials said the new actions reflected concern at Guantanamo and the Pentagon that the protests were becoming difficult to control and that the death of one or more prisoners could intensify international criticism of the detention center. Colonel Martin said force-feeding was carried out "in a humane and compassionate manner" and only when necessary to keep the prisoners alive. H e said in a statement that "a restraint system to aid detainee feeding" was being used but refused to answer questions about the restraint chairs.
Lawyers who have visited clients in recent weeks criticized the latest measures, particularly the use of the restraint chair, as abusive.
"It is clear that the government has ended the hunger strike through the use of force and through the most brutal and inhumane types of treatment," said Thomas B. Wilner, a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling in Washington, who last week visited the six Kuwaiti detainees he represents. "It is a disgrace."
The lawyers said other measures used to dissuade the hunger strikers included placing them in uncomfortably cold air-conditioned isolation cells, depriving them of "comfort items" like blankets and books and sometimes using riot-control soldiers to compel the prisoners to sit still while long plastic tubes were threaded down their nasal passages and into their stomachs.
. . . .
Until yesterday, Guantanamo officials had acknowledged only having forcibly restrained detainees to feed them a handful of times. In those cases, the officials said, doctors had restrained detainees on hospital beds using Velcro straps.
Two military officials, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the question, said that the use of restraint chairs started after it was found that some hunger strikers were deliberately vomiting in their cells after having been tube-fed and that their health was growing precarious.
In a telephone interview yesterday, the manufacturer of the so-called Emergency Restraint Chair, Tom Hogan, said his small Iowa company shipped five $1,150 chairs to Guantanamo on Dec. 5 and 20 additional chairs on Jan. 10, using a military postal address in Virginia. Mr. Hogan said the chairs were typically used in jails, prisons and psychiatric hospitals to deal with violent inmates or patients.
Mr. Hogan said that he did not know how they were used at Guantanamo and that had not been asked how to use them by military representatives.
Detainees' lawyers said they believed that the tougher approach to the hunger strikes was related to the passage in Congress of measure intended to curtail the detainees' access to United States courts.
Federal district courts have put aside most lawyers' motions on the detainees' treatment until questions about applying the measure have been litigated.
"Because of the actions in Congress, the military feels emboldened to take more extreme measures vis-a-vis the hunger strikers," said one lawyer, Sarah Havens of Allen & Overy. "The courts are going to stay out of it now."
Mr. Wilner, who was among the first lawyers to accept clients at Guantanamo and represented them in a case in 2004 before the Supreme Court, said a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, told him last week that around Dec. 20, guards began taking away items like shoes, towels and blankets from the hunger strikers.
Mr. Odah also said that lozenges that had been distributed to soothe the hunger strikers' throats had disappeared and that the liquid formula they were given was mixed with other ingredients to cause diarrhea, Mr. Wilner said.
On Jan. 9, Mr. Odah told his lawyers, an officer read him what he described as an order from the Guantanamo commander, Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood of the Army, saying hunger strikers who refused to drink their liquid formula voluntarily would be strapped into metal chairs and tube-fed.
Mr. Odah said he heard "screams of pain" from a hunger striker in the next cell as a thick tube was inserted into his nose. At the other detainee's urging, Mr. Odah told his lawyers that he planned to end his hunger strike the next day.
Another lawyer, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, said one of his three Bahraini clients, Jum'ah al-Dossari, told him about 10 days ago that more than half of a group of 34 long-term hunger strikers had abandoned their protest after being strapped in restraint chairs and having their feeding tubes inserted and removed so violently that some bled or fainted.
"He said that during these force feedings too much food was given deliberately, which caused diarrhea and in some cases caused detainees to defecate on themselves," Mr. Colangelo-Bryan added. "Jum'ah understands that officers told the hunger strikers that if they challenged the United States, the United States would challenge them back using these tactics."