Friday, February 17, 2006

Letter to Congressman Brad Sherman

Brad Sherman is my Congressional Representative. He is also the House Ranking Member on the Committee on International Relations.

Congressman Brad Sherman

500 Van Nuys Boulevard, Suite 420

Sherman Oaks, CA. 91403-1791

Dear Congressman Sherman:

I recently received a communication from your office stating your position on women’s reproductive rights, hand-gun control, and the environment. While these stances are gratifying to one who adheres to traditional, Democratic progressive values, recent developments in the so-called “war on terrorism” have prompted me to write to you today.

By now I am sure you are aware of the UN report on the human rights abuses occurring at Guantanamo Bay (see enclosed article). Of particular concern is the on-going policy of violent force-feeding of prisoners by military personnel in an effort to quash hunger-striking detainees. Listening to a report of the goings-on at the camp on the CBC last week, I was sickened to hear that US soldiers are engaged in behaviors which at best could be termed abuse, and at worst, torture. How can we, as a nation, export the ideals of a liberty, democracy, and free speech if our own agents (presumably acting on our proxy in the theater of war) carry out actions associated with the worst abuses of fascists dictatorships?

More generally, I remain greatly disturbed by the status of these prisoners as “enemy combatants.” This example of what I characterize as typical White House double-speak, allows the government to maintain these individuals in legal limbo indefinitely, thus violating nearly every treaty the US has been signatory to since the Geneva Conventions.

When these detentions began three-years ago, I doubt many of us imagined that, in 2006, we would continue to house population of individuals who have never been charged with any crime, in any court, in any district (civil, federal, or military). While this circumstance alone would suffice to cause alarm in any conscientious American, the fact that our own soldiers may be responsible for the continued abuse of prisoners under our care is odious, reprehensible, and must not be allowed to stand.

Congressman, I hope you will continue to work in your capacity as ranking member of the Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Human Rights to see that these prisoners are transferred into the American criminal justice system and processed with the full complement of rights outlined in the Constitution. We cannot allow these violations of basic human freedoms to continue, and we cannot tacitly endorse torture under any circumstance.

You constituent,

David DeWitt Fulton

Force-feeding breaks protest at Guantánamo

· Lawyers say abuse has left only four on hunger strike
· Pentagon denies policy of punishing detainees

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Friday February 10, 2006


The Pentagon faced a groundswell of protest about its treatment of detainees at Guantánamo yesterday after it emerged that a hunger strike had been broken by force-feeding inmates and putting them in restraints.

Five months after inmates at Guantánamo began the strike to protest against their indefinite detention at the US naval base only four remain on hunger strike. Three of those are being force-fed with tubes through the nose, a Pentagon spokesman said.

He denied charges that the Pentagon was trying to break the hunger strike by punishing the protesters. "They are not trying to reduce the hunger strike, but they are going to feed people to protect life," he said. The feeding was administered by medical professionals in "a humane and compassionate manner" using the same process as in civilian prisons.

The spokesman said the men were stable, and their condition was being monitored by doctors - a claim disputed by lawyers who have recently visited Guantánamo. The lawyers described the four hunger strikers as being extremely ill, and said that one was close to death.

The lawyers also accused the military of trying to break the protest through painful force-feeding, or by subjecting the hunger strikers to isolation and restraints, to avoid the risk of detainees committing suicide by starvation.

"The military at Guantánamo has reacted extremely violently against the detainees who have been involved in the hunger strike protest. They have come down very harshly," said Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer for the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which represents more than 100 inmates. Ms Gutierrez visited the base last month.

In court documents inmates have accused their jailers of being overly rough in the insertion and removal of feeding tubes - a charge the Pentagon denies. In addition, the New York Times reported yesterday that guards had strapped detainees into restraint chairs for hours at a time to prevent them from vomiting after being force-fed. Other hunger strikers have been placed in isolation for long periods, or deprived of blankets or books.

The newspaper said the tougher measures were imposed in recent weeks amid fears at the Pentagon that some of the prisoners were determined to kill themselves. Since the resort to restraints and forcefeeding there has been a steep drop in the number of hunger strikers, from 84 in December to four.

"They are abusing them psychologically, they are abusing them physically to the point where it becomes too painful to continue in the strike. They harass them until they begin to eat again," it claimed.

Amnesty International called for independent medical experts to be allowed to visit the hunger strikers.

"These fresh reports concerning the cruel treatment of hunger strikers are disturbing," Amnesty's UK director, Kate Allen, said.

There have been periodic hunger strikes at Guantánamo since the Bush administration established the prison in January 2002 to hold suspects in the war on terror beyond the oversight of the US courts. However, since last year the hunger strikes have intensified, with the inmates reportedly in despair that they will ever be released.

At the height of the protest last September more than 130 prisoners were on hunger strike, according to the Pentagon. However, detainees' lawyers fear the true numbers are even higher because the US military will only consider a detainee is on hunger strike if he misses nine consecutive meals.

The Pentagon spokesman would not be drawn yesterday on why so many detainees had abandoned their protest. However, one official said: "The hunger strike issue is more of a publicity ploy than anything else. Al-Qaida training manuals tell them what type of resistance to offer when detained."

He added: "Maybe they started eating again since it didn't work."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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