A hunger-striking prisoner at Guantanamo Bay has asked the US courts to intervene to halt a new round of abuses at the prison. Ahmed Rabbani is one of just 26 remaining ‘forever prisoners’ who will never be charged or tried, but whom President Trump has vowed never to release.
Mr Rabbani, from Pakistan, has been held at the prison camp since 2004. Mr Rabbani was a case of mistaken identity when he was detained in Pakistan in 2002; he was a taxi driver mistaken for a known extremist, Hassan Ghul, and sold by Pakistani authorities to the US for a bounty. He was tortured for 545 days in US custody in Afghanistan before being rendered to Guantanamo.
Along with other prisoners, Mr Rabbani has been on hunger strike for over four years, in protest at his detention without trial. Legal documents – filed in Washington DC this week by Mr Rabbani’s lawyers at human rights organization Reprieve and US firm Lewis Baach Kaufman Middlemiss – detail how the prison authorities have begun withholding medical assistance to the men, in an attempt to break their hunger strike.
According to Mr Rabbani and other prisoners, instead of force feeding them in the painful way previously done, Guantanamo medical staff have adopted a strategy of allowing the men to starve; denying them basic medical checks until their organs begin to fail and they become seriously ill; whereupon, when they are half dead, they will be kept half alive in forever-detention without trial. Mr Rabbani has told his lawyers at Reprieve that he weighs around 90 pounds (6 stone 6).
Mr Rabbani is asking the DC District Court to order the prison authorities to allow him immediate medical treatment and an independent medical evaluation, and to provide careful medical oversight of the strike.
Commenting, Mr Rabbani’s lawyer at Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “Ahmed Rabbani’s peaceful protest expresses a simple and just request – after 15 years, charge me, or release me. Instead of trying to break this strike in ever more barbaric and fruitless ways, the US authorities must urgently recognize that they cannot simply hold people like Ahmed indefinitely without charge or trial. The prison must urgently provide proper medical assistance to them. President Trump should stop his foolish grandstanding over dying men who are guilty of no crime, and take steps to release them.”
Eric L. Lewis, Senior Partner at LBKM and Chair of Reprieve US, said: “Mr. Rabbani’s hunger strike is the one means he has to call attention to his outrageous, un-American deprivation of liberty, which is now in its 16th year. He does not want to die; he wants to be treated humanely. The government has adopted a new policy of ignoring his medical needs and allowing irreversible damage to his health. It is immoral and illegal. At a bare minimum he is entitled to proper medical care and humane treatment.”
Notes to Editors:
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org, or +44 (0) 207 553 8140.
2. The legal documents filed in Mr Rabbani’s case are available on request.