Another Prisoner at Gitmo Alleges Horrific Abuses

Is the Obama Administration meting out cruel and unusual punishments?

On our last visit to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, prisoner Imad Abdullah Hassan charged that he has been tortured there under the Bush and Obama Administrations, via force-feeding conducted in a needlessly painful, degrading manner.

Today we meet Ahmad Rabbani, the latest hunger-striking prisoner to file a lawsuit alleging cruel and inhumane treatment by his captors and seeking judicial relief. "He is not seeking an injunction to permit him to continue his hunger strike until death," the brief filed by his attorney states. "Rather, he is seeking a constitutional protocol that ensures he is not force-fed prematurely and is not subjected to methods of force-feeding that cause unnecessary pain and suffering."

Like other prisoners, he charges that his U.S. captors are deliberately force-feeding him in a way that is gratuitously painful and humiliating in an effort to break an ongoing hunger strike. His complaint names nine specific abuses he wants to stop:

(a) unnecessary forcible and violent removal of detainees to the force-feeding location, (b) unnecessary and degrading genital searches, (c) unnecessary use of restraint chairs, (d) unnecessary insistence on force-feedings twice per day, (e) insertion and withdrawal of feeding tubes twice each day, (f) use of unnecessarily thick feeding tubes, (g) use of a dangerous and unreliable method to determine placement of feeding tubes, (h) unnecessarily rapid force-feeding, including any form of force-feeding that resembles the “Water Cure” form of torture, and (i) the use of over-feeding and anti-constipation medication to induce defecation during a force-feeding.

During some force-feedings, "JTF-GTMO staff, and sometimes the nurses themselves, squeeze the liquid feed bags to increase the speed at which the liquid enters his stomach," he alleges. "This causes immense pain as his stomach expands much more rapidly than is natural." Due to the pace of force-feeding and the anti-constipation medicine included in the mixture, it is not uncommon for Rabbani to soil himself. On these occasions, he is not given a change of clothing.

As a consequence of conducting a hunger strike, he is housed in the part of the prison camp designated for problem detainees, where instead of a toilet, there is a hole in the ground. "The floor does not have sufficient room for him to place his feet and squat," his lawyer reports, "so he is forced to defecate in his own food container, the only other repository in the steel cell." At night, he sleeps on a steel slab. 

His injuries are many. 

"On various occasions the metal-tipped tubes have been pressed into his organs and scraped the sides of his esophagus and stomach, and on at least one occasion soldiers rushed into the room at the sound of Petitioner’s screams. He eventually fainted from the pain," his declaration states. "He has said that he often feels like smashing his head against the wall out of desperation from the pain."

If nothing changes, he will be held in this fashion, and subject to force-feeding twice daily, for decades. Do you think that qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment?

I do.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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