Attorneys for Gitmo Detainees on Hunger Strike Win Court Order to Receive Medical Records

On October 25, 2005, in Washington, D.C., United States District Court Judge Gladys Kessler issued an opinion in the case of four Saudi nationals on hunger strike at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. In an emergency hearing the week of October 14, lawyers with the New York-based law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, which is working in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) argued for contact with their clients and immediate access to their medical records. The attorneys voiced grave concern for their clients’ health, which has reached critical condition since the men began a hunger strike in early August 2005.

In her decision, Judge Kessler ordered the government to provide:

  • notice to attorneys within 24 hours of forced feedings of their clients
  • medical records for detainees to counsel one week prior to the date forced feedings begin
  • medical records on an (at minimum) weekly basis until conclusion of forced feedings

The attorneys’ request for detainees to be provided phone access to their counsel and families was denied. The decision comes after the release of declassified notes taken by attorney Julia Tarver, whose firm represents 10 Saudi nationals. In those notes details emerged that during interviews conducted at Guantánamo with her clients, Yousef Al Shehri, Abduhl-Rahman Shalabi, and Majid Al Joudi, the men revealed the dire conditions they are facing at Guantánamo. They include force-feedings resulting in “vomiting up substantial amounts of blood,” continued verbal and physical abuse of detainees, the presence of medical personal during abusive/improper conduct by military personnel, and unsanitary conditions. All of these conditions resulted in the further deterioration of the men’s mental and physical health. Tarver expressed grave concern for her clients, two of whom had been carried in to their meetings with her on stretchers and had difficulty communicating.

“We are very pleased with this result. It reaffirms our faith in the American system of justice, where no one -- not even the Government itself -- is above the rule of law. However, we still have grave concerns about the condition of our clients, some of whom are young boys, who have spent nearly four years without charge, isolated miles away from their families, and are rapidly losing hope that justice will ever prevail for them,” said Julia Tarver, partner with the New York City law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and a CCR cooperating attorney.

Bill Goodman, Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated, “The Guantánamo hunger strikers are willing to die unless they get humane treatment, including some small measure of justice. Today’s ruling vindicates their demand for judicial oversight of the Defense Department’s systematic violations of human rights. Bloody force-feeding with dirty tubes is barbaric.”

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Last modified 

October 23, 2007