Shameful Treatment

The BBC has managed to get an interview with a detainee at Guantánamo 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.

6 Comments
  1. C’mon! Where are all the comments that Mr. Sarwark is the anti-American one for disseminating this information and that these detainees are clearly the terrorists who plotted and exectuted the 9/11 attacks and deserve such treatment?

    Where have all our usual breedbating creodonts gone?

  2. re: The actions of our government are sick, disgusting, and anti-American.

    Actually the actions of your government are sick, disgusting and ENTIRELY American!

  3. Actually, Artus, those comments are coming from the officials involved.

    Whenever there is an allegation of torture from a detainee (including these latest ones), they point out that the al-Qaeda training manual suggests that captured terrorists allege torture and go on hunger strike. The fallacy implied is that anyone who alleges torture and goes on hunger strike must be an al-Qaeda operative and that’s like proof that they’re not wrongly detained.

  4. Yeah, I’m painfully aware of them. But we have plenty of readers who parrot those lines.

  5. You know things are bad when we have people sitting around talking about which country gave them the worst torture.
    Can you imagine the discussions at the Torture Survivors Anonymous meetings?

  6. After the 2nd World War the world saw the horrors of the concentration camps and heard of the worst acts of barbarity. The world was shocked…normal people could not contemplate a situation where torture or inhuman or degrading treatment could be justified.

    Liberty, the UK based Human Rights organisation believes that by involving ourselves torture – even if we are not actually torturing people ourselves – we make a mockery of our status as a civilised country and we lose any ability to press other countries to halt this practice.

    Article 3, European Convention on Human Rights says “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

    It is the job of every voter to put pressure on their Government to take a moral stance against complicity with torture, through parliament, the press and courts. Please do what you can to support the campaign and defend the most fundamental element of the post-holocaust human rights legacy.