Monday, February 09, 2009

While Obama fiddles: On a sliced penis and hunger strikes at Gitmo.

Two items of note here.

1) The Telegraph reports that, according to secret British documents, UK resident and current Gitmo inmate, Binyam Mohamed, was tortured by Morracan interrogators while British MI6 agents peppered them with questions for him.

A British judge just ruled that the documents couldn't be released because "the Bush Administration 'had threatened to withhold intelligence cooperation with Britain if the information were made public.'

According to the Telegraph’s sources, the documents describe particularly gruesome interrogation tactics:

"The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, 'is very far down the list of things they did,' the official said.

Another source familiar with the case said: 'British intelligence officers knew about the torture and didn’t do anything about it.'"

The rub here is that this is a major political scandal in the making for the Labour Party.

The Telegraph:

"David Davis, the former shadow home secretary who first highlighted the case, said: 'What has become clear is that the information being held back is not protecting the American government who have made a clean breast of their involvement in torture, but the British government, where at least two cabinet ministers have denied any complicity whatsoever. 'It is very clear who stands to be embarrassed by this and who is being protected by this secrecy. It is not the Americans, it is Labour ministers.'"

But never mind all that, it's time to look to the future. OHB says he's going to shut down Gitmo at some point or another. Meanwhile, though, there are 42 Gitmo inmates on hunger strike:

2.) Hunger Strike at Gitmo:


"'We have 42 hunger strikers,' said Captain Pauline Storum, spokesperson for the facility, who said the figure includes 31 detainees being force-fed . . .

The feeding process is administered by registered nurses and is conducted in a humane manner focused on the care of the detainee, as well as protection of medical personnel and the guard force," she said.

'Practitioners use industry standard equipment and procedures -- the same that may be found in any civilian healthcare facility,' she said."

Uh huh . . . Enter the "Padded Cell on Wheels."

The NYT reported in 2006 the so-called "industry standard equipment" being employed is a restraint chair and the "procedures" include stuffing a hose down the hunger striker's nose. Fawzi al-Odeh, a Kuwaiti detainee, according to his lawyer "said he heard 'screams of pain' from a hunger striker in the next cell as a thick tube was inserted into his nose.

"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."

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 Guantánamo 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."

Just like in "any civilian healthcare facility."

Force feeding is moral?


"'There is a moral question,' the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., said in an interview. 'Do you allow a person to commit suicide? Or do you take steps to protect their health and preserve their life?'

Dr. Winkenwerder said that after a review of the policy on involuntary feeding last summer Pentagon officials came to the basic conclusion that it was ethical to stop the inmates from killing themselves. 'The objective in any circumstance is to protect and sustain a person's life," he said.'"

The good doctor ought to talk to a lawyer about that. The International Committee of the Red Cross says:

"The issue of force-feeding constitutes the link with situations of coercion and torture. As is well known, the World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Tokyo of 1975 prohibits any participation in torture, whether actively, passively or through use of medical knowledge, by a medical doctor. Article 5 of the Tokyo Declaration also stipulates that prisoners on hunger strikes shall not be force-fed, though few doctors know exactly why this clause is included. One common interpretation is that force-feeding is viewed as a form of torture . . .

In cases of real voluntary total fasting, usually by politically motivated prisoners or prisoners supporting a specific cause, be it ethnic, religious or otherwise, there may be a will to go all the way' and accept the physiological consequences of a prolonged fast.

In countries where prisoners’ rights are not fully respected or even completely disregarded, and where torture is practised; hunger strikes may be a last resort for prisoners wanting to protest against their situation."

I'd say for most of the detainees at Gitmo, after six years of detention without being charged with a crime, and having no hope of ever being released (never mind the penis slicing) they're pretty much out of options for protest beyond refusing to eat. What I want to know is if the "Emergency Restraint Chair" is still in use, and if it is, what Obama is doing about stopping its use. If he condones this type of illegal brutal tactic for breaking a perfectly legitimate form of protest, then he's buying into BushCo's crimes and tarnishing his reputation just as badly.

What difference has this made?

[Read my previous post on this subject from Feb.18 2006 at LTAD.]

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