New York, Paris, Berlin – Yesterday, human rights groups submitted a formal communication to United Nations Special Rapporteurs naming U.S. Army General Bantz John Craddock, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, responsible for the unlawful and unethical force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay prison. President Obama recently nominated a successor to Craddock who is awaiting confirmation. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Appeal for Justice, and the National Litigation Project, Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic of Yale Law School (NLP), submitted the communication to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Torture, on the Right to Physical and Mental Health, and on the Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism. They name General Craddock in his former capacity as U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) Commander from November 2004 until October 2006.
During his time as USSOUTHCOM, General Craddock oversaw the Guantanamo detention center where torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, and other abuses occurred. In particular, General Craddock approved and had command responsibility over the unlawful and unethical force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike.
The complaint was submitted on the eve of NATO’s 60th Anniversary Summit, following a conference organized by CCR, FIDH, and ECCHR on the nature and significance of NATO’s commitment to international human rights. CCR, FIDH, and ECCHR find it deeply problematic that NATO has at the head of its military command a man responsible for world-decried human rights violations that took place under his watch before he took the NATO post. The groups say it is illustrative of NATO’s failure to break from unlawful practices and policies implemented in the name of the U.S.-led “War on Terror.”
Guantanamo hunger strikers protesting their abusive detention conditions and lack of rights were and continue to be brutally force-fed through abnormally large nasal tubes while strapped into a six-point restraint chair. In 2006, General Craddock suggested that the restraint chair method served as an “effective deterrent” to hunger striking, and went so far as to joke that at least hunger strikers got to choose the flavor of the lozenges used to soothe irritation caused by the feeding tubes. (Source: Adam Zagorin, At Guantanamo, Dying is not Permitted, Time Magazine, June 30, 2006)
The brutal force-feeding of Guantánamo detainees amounts to torture, or at the very least, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under international human rights law. In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights found that “repeated force-feeding, not prompted by valid medical reasons but rather with the aim of forcing the applicant to stop his protest, and performed in a manner which unnecessarily exposed him to great physical pain and humiliation, can only be considered as torture.” (Ciorap v. Moldova)
CCR, FIDH, ECCHR, Appeal for Justice, and NLP ask the Special Rapporteurs “to demand that the U.S. Department of Justice immediately open an independent criminal investigation into General Craddock’s responsibility for the crimes alleged.” Because “the Obama Administration continues the unlawful and unethical force-feeding practices of the Bush administration against more than 50 men who peacefully protest their confinement and detention conditions using the only means available to them – their bodies”, authors of the communication also demand that the Special Rapporteurs “issue an urgent appeal to the Obama administration, requesting that it bring its hunger striker policies into legal and ethical compliance by instituting [a series of] urgent measures.”
While General Craddock’s replacement has been announced by the Obama administration, the groups note that the commander replacing him, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, is the current USSOUTHCOM Commander that replaced Craddock in 2006. In that capacity, he has authority over Guantanamo and is responsible for having allowed and continuing to allow this unlawful force-feeding to take place.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
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.