We Cannot Give up on Closing Guantanamo

At the rate the Obama administration is “closing” Guantanamo, most prisoners will die of old age before ever being released. Although two were released to Algeria last week — finally — 84 cleared prisoners and 60 others uncharged or facing military tribunals remain. 30 are on hunger strike, 27 of those being force-fed. Ongoing protests in Chicago, San Francisco, London, NYC and Washington, DC have involved dozens of activists, including some who have gone on solidarity fasts. See closegitmo.net.

Undoubtedly, it’s only the prisoner’s hunger strike, which began in February and is ongoing, which has gotten any movement of out of the illegal prison. Andy Worthington provides the personal background of two released prisoners in Who Are the Two Guantánamo Prisoners Released in Algeria. He previously covered

Nabil Hadjarab, by Molly Crabapple 2013 at Guantanamo

Nabil Hadjarab, by Molly Crabapple 2013 at Guantanamo

Nabil’s story on “Close Guantánamo,” in a profile published n May 2012 entitled, “Nabil Habjarab, the “Sweet Kid” in Guantánamo, Was Cleared in 2007 But Is Still Held,” and in July I publicized his account of the hunger strike, the first in which he had taken part. Now 32 years old, he was just 21 years old when he was first seized…

Nabil lived in France until he was nine years old, but then his father then took him back to Algeria, although he spent every summer in France with his uncle Ahmad. Disaster struck in 1994, when Nabil’s father died of cancer, and he was taken in by an abusive aunt.

Nabil’s lifeline was his uncle Ahmed, who sent him money, treating him as though he was one of his own children, and when he turned 21 Nabil returned to France and his uncle’s family, hoping to secure French residency.

However, fearful that he would be deported while waiting for his paperwork to be processed, Nabil made a fateful decision to travel to the UK, and from there to Afghanistan, where he stayed with an Algerian man in Kabul, and then fled to Jalalabad after the US-led invasion began. He then tried to reach the Pakistani border, but was wounded in a US bombing raid and ended up in a hospital in Jalalabad. From there he was sold to US forces, as were many of the men and boys who ended up, pointlessly, in Guantánamo. As one of the guards in Guantánamo explained, Nabil was no soldier and no terrorist; instead, he was “a brilliant artist, a keen footballer, and a sweet kid.”

The other prisoner sent to Algeria, 37 year old Mutia Sayyab was cleared for release twice — first under George W. Bush, in February 2008, and then under Barack Obama in January 2010. His attorney, Buz Eisenberg, said he is

“a poster boy for all that is wrong about Guantánamo Bay,” and an “unwitting and undeserving victim of a misguided response to terrorism.” He described him as “innocent of any conduct remotely related to terror, and in fact abhors and deplores such conduct,” adding, “He has nevertheless been beaten, forced to live in isolation, and stripped of his inalienable right to freedom.”

Another form of resistance to the prison is beginning to take shape from within the medical community. Michael Kirsch writes in Force-feeding prisoners at Guantanamo tortures medical profession that

There have been physicians present during enhanced interrogation events (read: torture) ostensibly to guide interrogators against causing permanent serious injury or worse. Perhaps, these physicians have rationalized their role to be protectors of detainees, but this is nonsensical. This role is so far removed from the medical profession’s healing mission that it deserves no debate. Indeed, this practice tortures the medical profession that is under oath to heal and comfort the sick, not to provide flimsy cover to ‘interrogators’.

Dr. Kirsch, ends

If our Commander-in-Chief wants to force food down someone’s throat, he is free to give the order. But, no doctor or nurse should carry it out.

The systematic torture developed under the Bush regime has only been possible with the collusion of attorneys writing legal justifications, officers devising and enforcing orders, and medical personnel giving ethical cover to the process.

Thank you, Dr. Kirsch!

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