On February 23, 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the following statement in response to news reports confirming further abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo. CCR leads a team of over 450 pro-bono attorneys representing the detainees, and it won the landmark Supreme Court case establishing their right to challenge their detention in U.S. court (Rasul v. Bush).
"We are alarmed by the Department of Defense's (DOD) reluctant admission that the military used cruel and harsh methods to break the hunger strike protest by prisoners at Guantánamo. The DOD has finally conceded it force-fed prisoners with the aid of restraint chairs and painful nasoenteric feeding tubes.
Since the current hunger strike began on August 8, 2005, the DOD has never provided forthright information about its treatment of hunger-striking prisoners. Its recent conduct reveals an utter disregard for the health and humanity of the protesters. The DOD's new admissions reveal that part of its objective in force-feeding was to inflict pain, isolate prisoners and crush their will - not simply to provide food or medical care, as the DOD had previously implied.
Some prisoners no longer on hunger strike are still experiencing substantial medical damage from the treatment. According to medical professionals, prisoners who lost a substantial portion of their body weight may suffer permanent organ or neurological injury. The DOD must provide a comprehensive public report on the medical condition of all the prisoners and what, if anything, the DOD is doing to treat patients suffering from the effects of the abuse and the strike.
We are also calling on the Department of Defense to correct its egregious false statements about the prisoners. Military spokespersons have referred to the Guantánamo hunger-strikers as "terrorists" trained by Al Qaeda, but recent non-partisan analyses of the military's own documents establish that almost none of the prisoners at Guantánamo were Al Qaeda fighters. (Studies were published by the National Law Journal and Seton Hall University Law School). Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials have repeatedly dismissed any accounts of abuse by falsely claiming all the detainees are members of Al Qaeda who have been "trained" to lie, but most have not been trained by Al Qaeda. There is also ample evidence corroborating the prisoner accounts, including military and intelligence documents and reports from NGO's such as the Red Cross. The military's attempts to deceive the public and the courts is beyond irresponsible, it violates due process and fosters confusion in our country's efforts to advance an effective and informed national security policy.
The Bush Administration must stop violating human rights laws and treaties, clinging to falsehoods, hiding its mistreatment of prisoners and trampling due process.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.