Medical Experts: Ba Odah “On the Precipice of Death”
October 15, 2015, Washington, D.C. – Today, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged a court to release a 74-pound Guantánamo prisoner who is “on the precipice of death” according to three medical experts. Tariq Ba Odah, a Saudi resident of Yemeni origin, has been held without charge since 2002 and cleared for release since 2009. He has been on hunger strike, protesting his indefinite detention, since 2008. In July, in a move that reportedly divided the Obama administration, the Department of Justice opposed, under seal, Mr. Ba Odah’s motion for release on medical grounds. In today’s the hearing, the judge expressed concern over Mr. Ba Odah’s deteriorating situation. He remarked more than once that Mr. Ba Odah has been detained for 13 years and cleared for five, and asked the government the status of transfer efforts, saying said he did not understand the delays. He indicated he would to take the information and arguments from today’s hearing under advisement.
Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Omar Farah told the court today that Mr. Ba Odah, due to deteriorating condition, is entitled to release under the Geneva Conventions and section 3-12 of Army Regulation 190-8, which allows for the humanitarian release and repatriation of gravely ill prisoners.
Medical experts, who detailed Ba Odah’s grave condition in support of the motion to release him, filed supplemental declarations roundly rejecting the government’s claims that Mr. Ba Odah is clinically stable, and reaffirming their conclusions that he faces persistent, grave medical risk. “Were Mr. Ba Odah to lose more weight,” wrote Dr. Sondra S. Crosby, “there will likely be very few remaining medical options available to spare his life.”
Medical experts have argued, on behalf of Mr. Ba Odah, that his body is not properly absorbing calories such that, though he is force-fed up to 2600 calories daily, he remains at 74 pounds and seems unable to gain weight—a phenomenon for which Guantánamo’s Senior Medical Officer offered no explanation in his declaration to the court.
In addition to its claims about Mr. Ba Odah’s medical condition, the government argued further that whether he should be released because of his grave and declining health is beyond the power of a federal court to review. CCR attorneys say such arguments, similarly advanced by the Bush administration, were definitively put to rest in the 2008 Supreme Court case Boumediene v. Bush, which explicitly established the right of men held at Guantánamo to challenge their detention in federal court.
“The Obama administration not only remains unmoved by the gravity of Mr. Ba Odah’s health and the potentially tragic consequences of inaction, but is actively working against the very thing it claims it is trying to achieve—Mr. Ba Odah’s release,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Attorney Omar Farah. “The Supreme Court positioned the court as a safety-valve for men like Mr. Ba Odah, for whom this is a matter of life and death, and it is now up to the judge to order the government to finally release him and put an end to over 13 years of unjust indefinite detention.”
Read the medical expert declarations submitted and learn more about the case on CCR’s case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for more than 13 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. CCR is responsible for many Guantanamo cases in many venues, representing men in their habeas cases in federal court and before the military commissions and Periodic Review Boards, the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking accountability in international courts.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.