Guantanamo prisoner on 8-year hunger strike ‘gravely sick’ – lawyers

© Brennan Linsley
Lawyers for a hunger-striking Gitmo prisoner said that, contrary to the findings of military doctors, his life is in danger. They have filed for his release. Their challenge is on the grounds of the Geneva Conventions and the Army’s own regulations.

Tariq Ba Odah is a Yemeni that has been held in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for 13 years without charge, and is at just 56 percent of his ideal body weight, meeting the criteria for releasing a “gravely sick or wounded” prisoner under international law.

The Department of Justice has argued that he does not qualify for release under the Geneva Conventions because his injuries are self-inflicted. The government also says that releasing him would incentivize hunger strikes by other prisoners, AP reports.

His lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights submitted a filing which says that his release is also supported by US Army’s own regulations on detained individuals.

Medical experts hired by Ba Odah’s attorneys dispute the military’s account that he is receiving adequate treatment. They expressed alarm at the fact that the 5-foott-3-inch tall Yemeni’s weight has dropped to only 74 pounds (34 kilograms) despite the fact that he has been force-fed liquid.

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In the filing, attorneys argue that the military violated medical procedure in their determination of Ba Odah’s health, since the evidence presented is “primarily second-hand observations and anecdotes from medical and non-medical staff about Mr. Ba Odah’s behavior.”

“As three medical experts attest, something dangerous is happening to Mr. Ba Odah that is now likely beyond his control,” they continue.

US officials have said that Ba Odah can be released but not to his native country of Yemen due to political instability there, and must wait to be placed in another country for resettlement, AP reports. He was cleared for release in 2009, and is one of roughly 50 detainees at the US base at Guantanamo, Cuba who are still awaiting transfer. He has family in Saudi Arabia.

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Ba Odah, who is in his 30s, has been on hunger strike since early 2007 in protest against his confinement, and the military is force-feeding him to prevent starvation. His weight dropped from 133 pounds (60 kilograms) when he started his protest.

The US currently holds 116 prisoners at the Guantanamo bay detention camp. It is located on the site of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, which has been controlled by the US since 1898.