Guantánamo

Lawyers: Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike ‘gravely sick’

A screen grab from a military handout video dated April 10, 2013 offers a rare glimpse of a restraint chair used for forced feedings in the prison camps psychiatric ward, called the Behavioral Health Unit, at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
A screen grab from a military handout video dated April 10, 2013 offers a rare glimpse of a restraint chair used for forced feedings in the prison camps psychiatric ward, called the Behavioral Health Unit, at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. MIAMI HERALD

Lawyers for a Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike are challenging a military doctor’s assertion that prisoner Tariq Ba Odah is clinically stable even though his weight has dropped to 74 pounds.

Ba Odah’s lawyers said in a filing with a federal court in Washington Friday that the prisoner is gravely ill and should be immediately released. Medical experts hired by the Center for Constitutional Rights dispute the military’s claim that the 5-foot, 4 1/2 inches tall Yemeni in his 30s is getting adequate treatment at the detention center holding 116 captives in Cuba, an undisclosed number of them on hunger strike.

“As three medical experts attest, something dangerous is happening to Mr. Ba Odah that is now likely beyond his control,” the lawyers wrote in the filing that asks U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan to intervene.

Ba Odah has been on hunger strike since 2007 to protest his confinement and is being force-fed to prevent starvation. The United States has said the captive can be released, but not to his native Yemen and he must wait until it places him in another country for resettlement. He has family in Saudi Arabia.

The captive’s lawyers argue that the federal courts have the authority to intervene in the case using an Army regulation governing prisoners of war, something the Obama administration disputes as inapplicable to Guantánamo detainees. The lawyers say the Yemeni needs to receive health care elsewhere because he no longer will cooperate with the prison’s Navy medical team.

Something dangerous is happening to Mr. Ba Odah that is now likely beyond his control.

Lawyers Omar Farah and Baher Azmy

“Army Reg. 190-8 and the humanitarian principles it incorporates, are a shield not a sword,” the filing said. “They are meant to protect gravely ill prisoners and ameliorate their suffering, not penalize them for their clinically predicable mistrust in the doctors that are periodically sent to their prison doors.”

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