Guantánamo Bay

#FastForJustice: Day 1

So day one on the slip road to the Hunger Strike Highway comes to an end. It has been 25 hours since I stopped eating. It’s not been too bad, but my old client Shaker Aamer has always assured me that day two is worse, and day three the nadir. After that things get a bit easier. The stomach has shrunk (if you drink little and often); the body starts to slow its metabolism; and, according to my friends, I go a bit more doolally, so I just don’t notice.

It was not too bad to begin with but then, in a rather foolish effort to show myself I could do it, I made my 9 year old his packed lunch (never did a marmite sandwich look to alluring) and then even did cheese on toast for my wife and her colleague for lunch. But the silliest notion was to think I could do a rather necessary shop at Waitrose for the weekend: every time I put something in the trolley I pondered how we would not need as much as I would not be allowed any.
I drank a lot of liquids, including more black tea than perhaps I should – the experts say it can dehydrate, and even the Guantánamo SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) admonishes that “after the Hunger Strike Protocol has been initiated, ensure that the detainee does not receive any caffeine products (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) because of its diuretic affect. Only water is provided during the hunger strike.”

A lot of the time I thought, though, that my strike is much easier than Ahmed Rabbani’s or Khalid Qassim’s. After all, when I stopped taking food, I had not been on strike and force fed twice daily for four years. They have both been without anything but water for twenty one days. And I have friends and family around – my lad played his violin to me to cheer me up. Ahmed hasn’t seen his son since he was 19 months, and the lad is now 16. Khalid has been locked up since he was barely out of his teens, and has never had he chance of a family at all.

It is easier on me on another level too. I have spent all my day (past midnight) working on a preliminary injunction that we need to file as soon as possible in Washington. That is a distraction that makes not eating much easier to ignore. Ahmed and Khalid are locked up in their prison, with nothing to listen to but their grumbling stomachs.

If I get to feel bad, I could always go down to the NHS clinic. After all, we have a fantastic health service in the UK. When Khalid complained about his treatment, the so-called medical professional said it was all his fault if his organs started failing. All Ahmed and Khalid have to do is forsake their principles, accept the 15years of indefinite detention without trial they have served so far, and stop their peaceful protest.

I suppose the medical officer is not uniquely obnoxious: probably some people said that to the Suffragettes who went on strike for the vote almost 100 years ago. They, too, could have just given up and started eating again. That way women would not have to vote today.

Anyway, nobody is talking about giving up any principles. But as I finally give up work to go to bed, I am greatly heartened to see that decent people around the world have pledged 160 days of hunger striking themselves, to support these men (#FastForJustice). That means when we get our emergency calls with our guys next week, I can try to persuade them to eat a bit of food while we take over from them – just so we can keep them alive until a federal judge can end this madness.

Clive Stafford Smith

Author Clive Stafford Smith

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve UK and Reprieve US. Clive oversees Reprieve US’s casework program, as well as the direct representation of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay and on death row as a Louisiana licensed attorney at law.

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