US guards break Yemeni detainee’s back at Gitmo

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Mansour Abdel-Haq

Ramadan 01, 1432 2011-08-01

News & Analysis

by Mansour Abdel-Haq (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 6, Ramadan, 1432)

Disturbing evidence has emerged of continued abuse and torture of prisoners by sadistic American guards in Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), the American gulag in the illegally occupied Cuban island. To protest mistreatment and continued illegal detention, many prisoners resort to hunger strikes.

Disturbing evidence has emerged of continued abuse and torture of prisoners by sadistic American guards in Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), the American gulag in the illegally occupied Cuban island. To protest mistreatment and continued illegal detention, many prisoners resort to hunger strikes. Aware that a prolonged hunger strike could lead to prisoners’ deaths and provoke unfavorable publicity, American soldiers force-feed them to prevent their dying at the Gitmo concentration camp. Some prisoners have resisted even forced-feeding and in the case of one Yemeni detainee, Abobaker (Prisoner No: 165, referred to as ISN 165 in Gitmo lingo), an American extraction team entered his cell and in the process of dragging him out, he was so violently shaken that his back was broken.

A day after his inauguration as US President, Barack Obama had promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay within a year. He described it as a blot on the name of the United States

Locked up in Unit C at Camp 5, Abobaker has been on a hunger strike for nearly four years. Like many other prisoners, he has been forced-fed throughout this time to prevent his death from starvation. Typically, twice a day, guards enter a prison cell, grab the detainee and drag him out. He is then tied to a chair with hands, feet, body and even head strapped tight to make them completely immobile. A tube is then inserted through his nose to feed him. Insertion of a feeding tube through the nose is an extremely painful process. There is always the danger of damaging the esophagus. Prison guards are not trained for such work; this is the job of trained medical professionals and the tube is not inserted on a daily basis, much less twice a day. In hospitals, a thin tube is inserted and left there for several days. At Gitmo, guards deliberately shove a large tube through each hunger-striking prisoner’s nose, twice daily and then pull it out after the feeding is complete.

There have been numerous reports of prisoners suffering serious injury to the esophagus. The more “troublesome” prisoners — like Abobaker — are given an extra makeover — beatings, kicking, and leaving them shackled for hours or even days in stressful positions. Abobaker’s back was broken when guards turned violent as he resisted being taken out of his prison cell. In his early 30s, Abobaker is not the only one to suffer such mistreatment and torture. He is reported to be in critical condition. He has been left paralyzed.

There are many others, among them Abdurrahman, a Saudi national in his mid-30s to early 40s, subjected to similar torture. He is the longest hunger striker, entering his sixth year now. The constant insertion and pulling of feeding tube has lacerated his esophagus so much that he has had to be hospitalized, naturally under constant guard and chained to a bed. Another Saudi national, Ghassan, also in his 30s, is suffering from serious stomach problems, again the direct result of tube insertions for forced-feeding. He regularly throws up blood, according to reports from Gitmo. He has been on a hunger strike for three years. He was one of the first to be named for trial at the military commission but he has not been tried. Even American lawyers have denounced the military commission as deeply flawed and a kangaroo court to secure automatic convictions, not to seek justice or get at the truth. The Canadian-born Omar Khadr was put through this kangaroo process last year and forced to admit to the killing of an American soldier in return for a pre-set eight-year prison sentence. Omar was deeply troubled by this unfair forced confession but his lawyers convinced him to accept this plea deal in order to get out of the Gitmo hell-hole. Otherwise, he was told, he would spend the rest of his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Mohamed Shamrani, another Saudi national in his early 30s, also suffers from serious stomach problems, again the result of forcible insertion of feeding tubes by untrained guards. He joined the other hunger strikers about five months ago and has just been moved to a hospital as a result of serious lacerations to his esophagus that have caused numerous stomach ailments. Then there is the Yemeni Emad, another thirty-something, who went on a hunger strike four months ago. He is also held in Unit C of Camp 5. Also held there is Abdussalam Al-Heela, an Egyptian businessman in his mid-40s. A tribal leader with whom he had a quarrel accused him of being an al-Qaeda member. After arrest, Abdussalam was shipped to Gitmo. He went on hunger strike four months ago to protest the torture and humiliation to which he and the others are subjected. He has maintained his innocence throughout and insists he has no connection with al-Qaeda or any other outfits.

Some 770 detainees have been processed through Gitmo, described as the “worst of the worst”, in the infamous words of the former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Yet, today, there are less than 170 left there, all the rest released because there was no evidence against them of any wrongdoing. Among them have been such figures as Muhammad al-Gharani, a Somali who was released in June 2009, six months after a judge in the US ruled that confessions were extracted from him under torture — sleep deprivation, beatings and other threats. He was reportedly only 11 years old when first captured. Mohammed Jawad, a 16-year-old Afghan boy, was also the victim of such American vigilante justice. Sent to fetch tea for his uncle in December 2002, Jawad never made it back. Someone had thrown a grenade at a passing jeep in Kabul wounding two American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter. Jawad was accused of this because he just happened to run by on his way to fetch tea. He was tortured to force him to confess. Sent to Gitmo, he spent many years under similar brutal torture but he insisted on his innocence. An American judge called his mistreatment an “outrage” and threw out the evidence demanding Jawad’s release in July 2009. He was finally sent to Afghanistan in August 2009 where his distraught mother fainted upon seeing her long lost son, now a grown up man with a beard, whom she did not recognize. At his arrest in Kabul, Jawad was barely 11 years old.

Not all prisoners have been so lucky. Some have died in detention. The Americans allege they committed suicide; the more plausible explanation is that they died under torture. Yemeni hunger striker Ali Abdullah Ahmed was one of them; two others were said to have “hanged” themselves in June 2006. In the absence of any independent inquiry and with guards given a free hand to abuse prisoners, the suicide allegations are meant to discredit prisoners since in Islam suicide is (haram) forbidden. This would tarnish their reputation among Muslims worldwide. Since then, there have been two other reported suicides — in 2007 and 2009. In the absence of opening the Gitmo torture chamber to independent outside inspection, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, such Americans’ claims cannot be taken seriously. After all, the recent reports of serious injury to hunger strikers would point to the fact that mistreatment and torture not only occur but they are routine.

One final point is in order. A day after his inauguration as US President, Barack Obama had promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay within a year. He described it as a blot on the name of the United States; it is. Two-and-a-half years later, Guantanamo continues to operate. Instead, kangaroo military trials have been held there and American officials have long retracted from their promises. When the president of the United States can lie so blatantly, why should anyone believe other American officials?

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