On May 23, United States District Judge Gladys Kessler overturned a ruling that would have prevented the U.S. military from force-feeding a Guantánamo Bay (Gitmo) prisoner who was staging a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. According to the Los Angeles (LA) Times, Judge Kessler authorized the military to continue force-feeding 43-year-old Syrian Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab because “the court simply cannot let [him] die.”
Such a violation of human rights demonstrates that the U.S. military is not managing Gitmo in a fair and ethical manner. Many of the prisoners at Gitmo have not had a formal trial and were simply detained by the U.S. military because they “looked” suspicious or had suspicious connections. The Fourth Amendment stipulates that any law enforcement agency needs probable cause to make an arrest. According to The Criminal Law Handbook by Paul Bergman, J.D., and Sara J. Berman, J.D., probable cause requires more than a mere suspicion that the suspected committed a crime. Any law enforcement officer must have enough concrete evidence to be confident that the suspect is a criminal. Even if there is little doubt that the suspect is a criminal, the suspect is guaranteed a fair trial, civil or military. Unfortunately, the Pentagon has unconstitutionally denied some prisoners the right to defend themselves, a regrettable action that has led to the rightful impression that Gitmo is an offshore law-breaking facility rather than a legitimate one.
Almost as bad as unjust imprisonment is unjust force-feeding, which is against medical ethics. Prisoners should not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and should have a minimum standard of living, which includes the right to make their own decisions on whether or not they want to eat. The U.S. military is considered Diyab’s medical provider because it runs a nearby base hospital that provides medical services to prisoners and the military. According to Dr. Thomas R. McCormick of the Department of Bioethics & Humanities at the University of Washington School of Medicine, the four principles of medical ethics are respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence and justice. The Pentagon must acknowledge that the prisoner will act in his best self-interest, and the Pentagon must respect the choices that he makes, including his decision to participate in a hunger strike.
As for the other principles, medical providers must not harm their patients and should instead promote the best medical option for them. Although the Pentagon and the court may rule that force-feeding is not as harmful as death, some prisoners may prefer atrophy over being strapped down in a restraint chair and having feeding tubes inserted into their bodies.
Even worse, the LA Times reports that Diyab was willing to stop the hunger strike if he were fed at the base hospital. Sadly, the U.S. military refused to agree to his requests and, thus, violated ethical principles by failing to do what was best for the patient and by not offering him just treatment.
Gitmo is a major blemish on our own country’s image. The U.S.’s claim to fame is that it is the first modern democratic state, and the U.S. likes to act as a police power to ensure that democracy occurs around the world. Unfortunately, many people, especially those in regions with U.S. military presence, resent the U.S. for being hypocritical and not understanding the locals’ problems. Unless the U.S. shows a concerted effort to improve its democracy by closing down Gitmo, many people will continue to be antagonistic to the U.S., and the U.S. will continue to lose credibility as a democratic superpower.
Written by ANDREW HONG