Navy Nurse Punished for Refusal to Torture Prisoners; Military Lawyer Resigns to Protest Gitmo Torture
September 19, 2014
A Navy nurse who refused to force-feed hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees was threatened with court-martial and could now lose his career. The nurse, a Navy lieutenant who has never been publicly identified, refused to force-feed hunger strikers -- becoming the first known US military conscientious objector during the 18-month-long hunger strike. Meanwhile, Maj. Jason Wright resigned on Aug. 26, accused the government of "abhorrent leadership" on human rights and due process at Gitmo.
Navy Nurse Faces Expulsion after
Refusing to Force-feed Gitmo Detainees
(September 16, 2014) -- A Navy nurse who refused to force feed hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees over the summer, once threatened with court-martial, could now lose his career.
The nurse, a Navy lieutenant who has never been publicly identified, refused to force feed hunger strikers shortly before July 4 at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay prison complex. The decision reportedly followed months of him carrying out the painful procedure.
A Navy commander on Monday said he asked the board to determine whether the nurse should be allowed to stay in the US Navy. "I can tell you right now that, after reviewing the investigation that was conducted in Guantanamo, I recommended that the officer be required to show cause for retention in the Navy. I chose not to do the court-martial route," the nurse's commander, Navy Capt. Maureen Pennington, told the Miami Herald.
It has been noted that a Board Inquiry, or administrative review, can keep details of the incident secret. A military trial, however, would have brought up questions about the military's hunger strike policy and a debate about the medical ethics over force-feeding.
Pennington is the commanding officer for the nurse -- one of more than 100 nurses from the Naval Health Clinic New England. If the nurse is fired, any pension benefits will be forfeited.
"It's kind of out of my hands now; ultimately the Secretary of the Navy will have the final say on this," Pennington said. "The review, which could last about nine months, entitles the nurse to get an attorney and call witnesses to a closed hearing to argue why he should be allowed to remain in the service."
The incident was first revealed during a call between a hunger-striking prisoner, Abu Wael Dhiab, and his lawyer, Cori Crider from the London-based legal defense group Reprieve.
Dhiab described how the nurse abruptly refused to force feed the prisoners and disappeared from detention center duty. Crider called the nurse the first known US military conscientious objector in the 18-month-long hunger strike.
According to the Miami Herald, Crider said Dhiab quoted the nurse as announcing: "I have come to the decision that I refuse to participate in this criminal act."
Dhiab, a Syrian who was cleared for transfer from Guantanamo in 2010, has been hunger striking to protest his continued detention and is challenging the force feeding policy in federal court.
At the height of the hunger strike campaign, 100 detainees refused to eat, according to the US military -- and at one point 46 detainees were treated with force feeding tubes.
A leaked document of the military's standard operating procedures for force feeding detainees was also leaked, and US rapper Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) posted a video on YouTube experiencing the procedure.
Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) Force-fed
Under Standard Guantanamo Bay Procedure
(July 8, 2013) -- Warning: some viewers may find these images distressing.
As Ramadan begins, more than 100 hunger-strikers in Guantánamo Bay continue their protest. More than 40 of them are being force-fed. A leaked document sets out the military instructions, or standard operating procedure, for force-feeding detainees. In this four-minute film made by Human Rights organization Reprieve and Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia, US actor and rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), experiences the procedure.
Painful Force-feeding Procedure Caused
Gitmo Detainee to Cough Up Blood
(May 23, 2014) -- The agonizing pleas of a Guantanamo Bay detainee who has been held by the United States and subjected to painful force-feeding for a decade are recounted in court documents published this week by a human rights attorney who visited him earlier this month.
On Thursday, new filings in the US District Court for the District of Columbia case of Mohammad Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani v. President Barack Obama were made public, revealing as a result the details of a recent visit paid to the detainee by Cortney Busch, an operations manager and security-cleared paralegal with the legal action charity Reprieve.
Attorneys for Rabbani -- a Pakistani father of three believed to have been at one point a high-ranking Al-Qaeda official -- have asked the District Court to consider a declaration authored by Busch after she spent two days at the infamous military prison during the first week of May with regards to their federal case against the president pertaining to what lawyers call "the unconstitutional and inhumane force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and a denial of their right to religious free exercise."
During her May 5 and May 7 visits, Busch spoke to Rabbani at length about the force-feeding procedure he's been repeatedly subjected to while protesting at Gitmo by refusing to ear. She surrendered her notes at the end of her visit earlier this month, attorneys for Rabbani write in Thursday's filing, and received a cleared copy back this week -- now the detainee's lawyers want her account entered with the court.
According to Busch, Rabbani told her that a string of recent force-feedings had been carried out incorrectly, causing him not just tremendous pain, but the development of a chest infection as well.
On April 25, Rabbani told Busch, a Gitmo nurse was unsuccessful four times in a row with trying to administer a force-feeding tube through the detainee's nose and into his stomach. "After a few minutes," Busch wrote, "Mr. Rabbani began coughing the liquid up because the tube had turned and was facing up his throat, rather than down."
"Mr. Rabbani related to me that he could feel the liquid push up his throat and then begin to drop back down it. He eventually coughed up the tube at which point the nurse came running into the room and told Mr. Rabbani 'I did not make a mistake," she wrote.
The next morning, Busch recalled, "Mr. Rabbani woke up and alter the guards that he was unable to breathe due to the repeated insertion and withdrawal of the tube on Friday. He asked for a day's rest from the feeding procedure, but his request was ignored and he was taken for force-feeding."
"During that feeding, the first time the nurse insert the tube, it was again incorrectly inserted and instead of going down his throat, the tube was pushed upwards towards the back of his head," she wrote. "Rabbani told me that it felt like the tube was 'pushed up into [his] brain.'"
Within days, Rabbani was experiencing intense chest pain and believed he had developed an infection. Medical workers continued to administer force-feeding nevertheless, during which in one instance he began coughing up blood and eventually lost consciousness.
"When Mr. Rabbani awoke, he vomited blood on himself three or four times before he again lost consciousness," Busch wrote.
Despite the infection and the ongoing ordeal involved with administering the force-feeding, Rabbani was given only a two-day break from the procedure, Busch wrote.
She goes on to document how Rabbani cried and coughed in front of military personnel and Gitmo nurses as these botched procedures continued, but his pleas to be left alone were routinely ignored. Instead, he was continuously subjected to force-feeding -- as do all hunger-striking detainees at the prison -- which in most instances causes complications, according to Rabbani.
"[T]he great majority of the time he is fed, he vomits immediately or shortly after his feeding," Busch wrote after her visit. "When he does, the FCE [forced cell extraction' team puts a mask or cover over his face to keep the vomit from getting onto them as they carry him. When the mask is placed on his face, his vomit ends up covering his face, going in his eyes, ears and hair."
Indeed, Busch's declaration and an application for permission to file it with the court provide a dark retelling of the recent mishaps, which are only the latest endured by Rabbani. According to a confidential detainee assessment brief provided to WikiLeaks in 2011 by currently-imprisoned intelligence source Chelsea Manning, Rabbani was caught in September 2002 in Karachi, Pakistan, and held there until May 2004 when he was transferred first to the US Air Force base at Bagram, Afghanistan, then Gitmo four months later.
In 2006, the New York Times claimed that Rabbani was among the suspected terrorists held abroad by the US at a Central Intelligence Agency "black site" after he was first captured.
"Because of a peaceful protest aimed at securing basic legal rights, my client has been put through a painful, near-daily ordeal," Cori Crider, a strategic director at Reprieve and counsel for Rabbani, told The Guardian's Karen McVeigh on Thursday.
"All this would be unnecessary if the [Obama] administration would just follow through on its promise to close the prison," Crider wrote.
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration would consider vetoing an annual Pentagon spending bill because it contains a provision that will further complicate the president's long-delayed vow to close the detention facility. The bill, with the amendment intact, was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
As RT reported then, the White House previously threatened to halt that same bill -- the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA -- in 2011 over concerns pertaining to an unrelated provision. Nevertheless, Pres. Obama signed the bill into law on December 31 of that year.
According to the classified detainee assessment brief published by WikiLeaks, Rabbani told American officials that he met former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 1997, and began working as a facilitator for his terrorist organization later that year. In 1999, according to the document, Rabbani began working directly for bin Laden's chief of operations. He has been held at Gitmo for one decade without charge.
READ MORE: Is it necessary to torture me?' Gitmo prisoner demands 'civilized' force-feeding
Military Lawyer Resigns in Protest of 'Show Trial'
of Accused 9-11 Mastermind
(September 02, 2014) -- Last week, a US military lawyer on the defense team for self-proclaimed 9/11-attacks mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed resigned from the Army in protest of the "show trial" conducted by the US at Guantanamo Bay.
Maj. Jason Wright resigned on Aug. 26, according to NPR. He accused the US government of "abhorrent leadership" on human rights and due process at the military detention center at Guantanamo, where Mohammed and other defendants are being prosecuted for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Wright joined the military in 2005, serving 15 months in Iraq. He then worked as a Judge Advocate. He served on Mohammed's defense team for three years. His resignation came after he refused an Army order to leave the defense team so he could complete a graduate course for his promotion from Captain to Major, saying it would have been unethical to follow the order.
Mohammed was captured in 2003, and spent years in CIA "black site" prisons around the world. He was waterboarded 183 times during this period. This torture, and that of the other defendants, is a leading reason as to why the 9/11 case has not yet gone to trial.
"All six of these men have been tortured by the US government," Wright told NPR, saying that his client was subject to abuse undisclosed to the public that was "beyond comprehension." He said Mohammed faced sleep deprivation and threats that his family would be killed. "And those are just the declassified facts that I'm able to actually speak about," Wright said.
Thus, Wright knew it would be unlikely that Mohammed would trust him as a legal counsel.
"You show up several years later and you say, 'I'm from the US government and I'm here to help you' … and you add on the complexity that I wear the same uniform as the guards," he said. "It's very challenging in any situation to develop trust and confidence with a client. But when you add on that torture paradigm, it's all the more difficult."
Wright and fellow defense lawyers in the case are barred from discussing in court much of the details of their clients' torture.
"The 'original sin' being the fact that the CIA tortured these men and that they've gone to extraordinary lengths to try to keep that completely hidden from public view," Wright said. "So the statute that Congress passed has a number of protections to ensure that no information about the US torture program will ever come out."
Wright said other restrictions on his defense team led to the resignation.
"So not only do you have statutory design, but you actually have, in practice, a very large effort to try to ensure that no ensure that no information about torture is ever made known in public," he said.
The defense in the 9/11 case has alleged clandestine government interference with legal proceedings. Past hearings at Guantanamo have shown that listening devices were planted in rooms where lawyers and prisoners met, and that someone outside the court had a kill switch that cut the closed-circuit broadcast feed of the trial when secret CIA prisons were mentioned. In addition, the defense has alleged spying in the case, claiming the FBI propositioned a defense team security officer to be a confidential informant.
Wright cited the US government's meddling as the biggest challenge to a fair trial for the defendants.
"The US government is trying to call this a fair trial, while stacking the deck so much against the defense and the accused that it can hardly be called a fair trial in any system in the world," he said, accusing the government of staging a "show trial."
Meanwhile, the force-feeding policy at Guantanamo -- which spurred a massive hunger strike at the prison last year -- was back in the news in July, as a Navy nurse refused to force-feed inmates participating in the strikes. The unidentified nurse is believed to be the first conscientious objector to Guantanamo's controversial, involuntary tube-feeding system used to combat striking inmates.
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