The BBC has managed to get an interview with a detainee at GuantÃƒÂ¡namo Bay, through the intercession of his lawyer. In it, Fawzi al-Odah describes his treatment during a hunger strike.
“First they took my comfort items away from me. You know, my blanket, my towel, my long pants, then my shoes. I was put in isolation for 10 days.
“They came in and read out an order. It said if you refuse to eat, we will put you on the chair [for force feeding].”
He told how detainees were given “formulas” to force them to empty their bowels and were strapped to a metal chair three times a day, where a tube was inserted to administer food.
“One guy, a Saudi, told me that he had once been tortured in Saudi Arabia and that this metal chair treatment was worse than any torture he had ever endured or could imagine,” Mr Odah said.
Well, at least we can take comfort in the passage of the McCain torture amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 to ensure that this kind of treatment won’t ever happen again, right? Theoretically yes, but actually that’s wrong. Another prisoner is challenging his treatment in court under the law and running into…umm…problems.
In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee’s lawyers described as “systematic torture.”
Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions.
Yep, the same law that prohibits torture prohibits those people most likely to be tortured from access to the courts to get the law enforced.
In court filings, the Justice Department lawyers argued that language in the law written by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) gives Guantanamo Bay detainees access to the courts only to appeal their enemy combatant status determinations and convictions by military commissions.
“Unfortunately, I think the government’s right; it’s a correct reading of the law,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “The law says you can’t torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can’t enforce that law in the courts.”
In closing, an excerpt from the BBC interview transcript with Fawzi al-Odah:
Before all this happened, what was your view of America?
I loved America. It freed my country from Saddam Hussein. My father fought with America against Saddam. I respected America. It stood for human rights and fairness around the world. America was the country we all looked up to.
What is your view now?
It has abandoned all of its own traditions and beliefs which were the cause of my respect for it. As someone who lived in the US, I cannot believe the American people know what is happening down here. This is wrong.
At this point, I have to agree with Mr. al-Odah. The actions of our government are sick, disgusting, and anti-American.