Detention & Guantanamo

Hunger-Striker Hassan Files Motion to Intervene in Aamer v. Obama

By Jane Chong
Monday, November 4, 2013, 6:00 PM

As promised by petitioners in their filing last week, and in response to the government's letter to the court suggesting that their case is moot: Guantanamo detainee Imad Abdullah Hassan today moved to intervene in Aamer v. Obama, the force feeding case on appeal in the D.C. Circuit. Unlike the three original petitioners, Hassan is still being tube-fed and, according to the motion, has been on hunger strike "nearly continuously since 2007." Hassan's own petition for a writ of habeas corpus is still pending in the district court.  As for this case, Hassan's overarching goal, and that of the Aamer petitioners, is clear enough. The idea is to bat away the Department of Justice's apparent bid to have the appeal knocked out on jurisdictional grounds.

The motion to intervene is itself brief. But appended is the more substantive declaration of Hassan's counsel, Clive A. Stafford Smith, who is also the founder and director of the London-based not-for-profit human rights organization Reprieve. The declaration notes that Hassan does not want to die but is a "very principled person," and highlights the thought process behind Hassan's decision to decline food. For example, Hassan has compared the detainee struggle at Guantanamo to the African-American struggle for rights under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King.

In his declaration, Smith corroborates Hassan's suggestion that detention authorities have "intentionally made the process of force feeding even more painful," and cites a 2006 New York Times article alluding to some of these measures. Smith details the pain Hassan has been forced to endure in what the detainees refer to as the "torture chair." For instance, Hassan is being fed a liquid nutrient to which he appears to be allergic, consistently gets a fever as a result of the force feeding and has been fed at a rate that causes him extreme nausea. According to Smith, Hassan has almost died three times; his experiences have included life-threatening infections and extended hospital isolation.

In addition to detailing Hassan's deteriorating health, Smith notes that "scrotum searches" have caused some prisoners to decline calls and visits from legal counsel.

The declaration ends with a letter from Hassan to Smith:

The first lesson I learned here was: the oppression is dark and foreboding. God described himself as judge of justice and he will judge everyone by justice, even the unobedient. The second lesson: tyrants seek to cover their mistakes by another mistake, or a war.

Today, the American government [is making] a huge mistake with us. I didn’t say they did it yesterday or three, seven, or ten years ago! That is in the past. They could have been confused, or blind, or lacked understanding, and I would not have blamed them. Perhaps it’s not easy for anyone who never felt the stinging darts of 9/11 to understand. I truly do understand. But that is a long time in the past, and I think it is time to correct this mistakes. If not now, when?! We all make mistakes. There is no shame in that. But an ongoing mistake is a [true] mistake. I demand the US society to correct the mistake it is making every day here. And not only for us—for themselves, their kids, and the next generation. When [the kids] ask about Guantánamo, and how the US government behaved in this case, what will they say? They demolished the great principles that your forefathers, the founding fathers, built the United States of America on. Am I right? What happened in the past does not relieve you from your responsibility for the present. And the problem is unsolved. We exist in Guantánamo. No one can deny that we exist. No one.