June 03, 2009

Guantanamo Prisoner Dies from Apparent Suicide

Guantanamo has been the site of long running hunger strikes for many prisoners who think only death will provide them escape from the camp. Today, one of the hunger strikers found a way to leave the camp forever when he was found dead in his cell of an apparent suicide. As the prisoners who are participating in the hunger strike have been force feed with a tube through their nose in some cases for years, so there is some question of how he finally succeeded in committing suicide.

Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih would be the fifth prisoner to take his life at the detention center since the Pentagon began holding terrorism suspects there more than seven years ago.

When the Guantanamo prisoners first started their hunger strike, the US officials complained about how the prisoners were just trying to get attention. In 2006, when three other prisoners committed suicide, this is how the news was reported.

[Rear Adm. Harry] Harris said Saturday that every prisoner at Guantanamo is considered "dangerous."

"They are smart. They are creative. They are committed. They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own," Harris said. "I believe this was not an act of desperation, but rather an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

Asymmetrical warfare is when one side uses unorthodox or surprise tactics to attack the weak points of its stronger opponent.

...Also last month, 75 prisoners staged a hunger strike to protest conditions at the jail, Reuters reported.

Harris said the men who killed themselves Saturday were "committed hunger strikers" and had participated in the May hunger strike.

Even while Harris was blaming the dead for trying to embarrass the Americans and lying by saying that only terrorists were held at the camp, David Rose wrote the following in the Guardian.

[Former British prisoner Shafiq] Rasul said: 'I was shocked by what happened, though not surprised, because I saw it almost happen so often. It was always scary: I would see people deteriorating mentally in front of my eyes until they tried to take their own lives, and you always thought: "That could be me". There were even times when I thought about it myself, but I wanted to be strong for my family. When I did, believe me, it wasn't because I was trying to hurt the United States, but on days when I'd just been told I'd never see England again, and that I was a terrorist, and when I denied it they wouldn't listen.'

The first hunger strikes started in Guantanamo just after it opened in 2002 and there have been regular and ongoing strikes since that time. As TIME reported in 2006, the prisoners that go too far are force fed and even told "Dying is not permitted."

At Gitmo, however, dead prisoners are something the U.S. military wishes devoutly to avoid. So force-feeding has been standard policy at the camp ever since hunger strikes began in early 2002. The facility's top physicians have also told TIME that prisoners who resist are subjected to especially harsh methods. In one case, according to medical records obtained by TIME, a 20-year old named Yusuf al-Shehri, jailed since he was 16, was regularly strapped into a specially designed feeding chair that immobilizes the body at the legs, arms, shoulders and head. Then a plastic tube that is 50% larger, and more painful to insert, than the commonly used variety was inserted up through his nose and down his throat, carrying a nutritional formula into his stomach.

Thousands of people, of course, endure some form of voluntary intra-nasal feeding every day in hospital settings. But when force-feeding is involuntary and the recipient is in a state of high anxiety, the muscles tense up and the procedure can trigger nausea, bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting. "We are humane and compassionate,"; Guantanamo commander Harris told TIME, "but if we tell a detainee to do something, we expect the detainee to do it." As a note scrawled in al-Shehri's medical records put it: "[The prisoner] was informed that dying is not permitted."

One thing to note is how similar the forced feeding was to that experienced by Vladimir Bukovsky who was tortured in Stalin's prison camps.

It is time to stop this insanity, shut Guantanamo down and provide some real justice to the prisoners who are still there.

Posted by Mary at June 3, 2009 12:17 AM | Human Rights | Technorati links |
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