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October 17, 2013

The Aamer Appeal to stop force-feeding in Guantanamo

By Palina Prasasouk

Guantanamo detainee sues the government.

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Photo provided by Aamer's family in 2012 by aamer


Lawyers for   Shaker Aamer ,  the last British resident in Guantanamo Bay have filed an appeal in the case of   Shaker Aamer vs. Barack Obama,  a case that was first filed in June 2013 to halt the force-feedings of hunger strikers Aamer, Ahmed Belbacha, and Nabil Hadjarab. This is one of four consolidated appeals, one for each of four detainees, with Aamer's being the lead case, which, if won, could end all force-feeding in the prison, a rare victory in the twelve years that Shaker Aamer has already lost.   Shaker Aamer is one of 164 detainees currently in Guantanamo Bay, and one of 84 detainees cleared for release. He has been cleared since 2007 by a military review board and again by President Obama's inter-agency Guantanamo Review Task Force in 2010.

Original Case

In the Kessler case involving detainee Dhiab, US District Judge Gladys Kessler rejected the attempt by detainees to end force-feeding, but stated in an order that the practice is "painful, humiliating, and degrading." She declared that President Obama is "the one individual who does have the authority to address the issue." It has been more than four months since President Obama's national security speech, in which he recommitted the United States in closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  Nabil Hadjarab has been released to Algeria since the original case filing in July, therefore removing his name from the case.

"Although District Judge Kessler took the position that the only person who can stop the force-feeding is President Obama, we believe that the federal courts also have the power to do so, which is why we have taken the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals," states Jon B. Eisenberg, a lead attorney in the case. The hearing, which has been named the "Aamer Appeal," will hear oral argument on October 18, 2013 at the D.C. Circuit courthouse. 

Legal Team for Shaker Aamer Will Argue

The lawsuit alleges two human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay: (1) force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees in order to prolong their indefinite detention and (2) deprivation of religious free exercise by denying hunger-strikers the right to pray in congregation. 

Force-feeding is in violation of international law and medical ethics. The World Medical AssociationAmerican Medical AssociationThe British Medical Association, and Pre-hospital and Disaster Medicine  are among some of the medical associations who identify force-feeding as inhumane, degrading, and torture. Numerous doctors all urge the licenses of health professionals who participate in force-feeding be revoked.

All hunger strikers were forced into solitary confinement in April 2013. In order for a detainee to be taken off the hunger strikers' list he would need to consume nine consecutive meals. Once taken off the hunger strike they were permitted into communal living. The detainees were deprived of performing nightly communal Ramadan prayers unless they stopped hunger striking, a direct violation of the  Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The Government Contends

Attorneys for the The United States contends in a brief filed under  USCA Case #13-5223  "As non-resident aliens, they do not fall within the category of "persons" protected by RFRA." Spanning over sixty-one pages, the United States continues to argue that "habeas may not be used," "claim is moot," and "the courts lack jurisdiction," --all  phrases pointing towards a legal black hole. 

Meanwhile, corporations are recognized as persons in the judicial system. Under corporate personhood, for-profit corporations are given the same rights as human beings.  This allows corporations to sue and be sued in a court in the same way as natural persons are.  As Mitt Romney infamously said during the 2012 presidential election, "Corporations are people, my friend."  The court also expresses fear of lawsuit in the case of a death during the hunger strike, if the force-feedings are to be put on halt -- a contradiction  as the Government has suggested laws do not apply to detainees.

Another dispute the Government is upholding in the dissension is that the forced-feedings are humane. " If enteral feeding is necessary, it is administered in a humane manner through a nasogastric tube."..."Nothing about the process described above constitutes "torture" or "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment." The  Government 's assertions are in conflict with one detainee's confession "During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily,"  said Samir Moqbel in a New York Times Op-Ed

Andres Thomas Conteris, a solidarity hunger striker for CloseGitmo.net has voluntarily undergone the nasogastric procedure. He has gone more than 100 days on liquids-only. Under a physician's care, it was recommended Conteris receive some sort of nutrition. He plans to continue his act of solidarity as long as the men in Guantanamo are protesting. He began a solidarity hunger strike on Ramadan, the same day the prisoners at Pelican Bay began theirs to meet 5 core demands. He describes the tube-feeding as "endless agony," with each one being more excruciating than the last. He has undergone the procedure four times. The men in Guantanamo endure this torture twice a day.

We Wait

Shaker Aamer has lost 60 lbs after 252 days of the hunger strike and counting. Fifteen detainees are currently being force-fed. Aamer's British wife and their four British-born children, reside in London, England --t he youngest, of which he has never met. Umm Johina Aamer gave birth to their son on February 14, 2002, the same day Aamer was airlifted to Guantanamo Bay from Bagram. Aamer's oldest daughter, Johina, age fifteen, writes on July 28, 2013, "I've been told so many times that my Dad is returning. I can't get my hopes up anymore, all I can do is wait."




Submitters Bio:

Palina Prasasouk is a New York City based Fellow at Witness Against Torture and independent filmmaker and writer on issues of civil liberties, national security and Guantanamo. You can follow her on Twitter at visiitor

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