The Guantanamo Bay prison camp has been rocked by another death. It is not the death of one of its prisoners however. On Wednesday it was reported by Truthout, that a defense attorney who represented prisoners at the prison camp was found dead last week of an apparent suicide.
The attorney, Andy P. Hart, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He left behind a suicide note and a USB thumb drive, believed by many to contain case files relating to prisoners at the prison camp. This suicide is only the latest in a host of shocking events that have rocked the media in recent days regarding the prison camp.
Hart was one of three-dozen attorneys to sign a letter urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to take immediate and decisive action to bring about an end to the hunger strike that is ongoing in Guantanamo Bay. Of the 166 prisoners in the camp, over 100 are on hunger strike. Twenty-three of those prisoners are being forcefully fed against their will, a process that has been described as "painful."
The American Medical Association has written a letter to the Pentagon stating the forced feeding of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners violates medical ethics. Dr. Jeremy Lazarus of the AMA writes, "Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions."
Guantanamo Bay was set up in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks as an extrajudicial prison camp for "high-level" detainees. However policies during the Bush administration saw the prison fill up with "low-level"detainees. This policy had gotten so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complained in a memo that, "We need to stop populating Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) with low-level enemy combatants" and that "GTMO needs to serve as an [REDACTED] not a prison for Afghanistan"
Hart had worked on the case involving one Kahlid Saad Mohammed, a low-level detainee who was transferred back to Saudi Arabia in 2009. Hart was also assigned to defend Mohamed Rahim al-Afghani. Captured by the CIA, al-Afghani was allegedly tortured by the U.S. government until he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2008. The government prosecution maintains that al-Afghani is a high-level detainee and was Osama bin Laden’s translator.
President Barack Obama recently was asked during a press conference about the ongoing hunger strike and said that he would push to close the prison camp, renewing an old campaign promise from 2008. Congress has limited many of the actions that the President Obama can take to free the prisoners in the camp, but there are actions that he can take that do not require congressional approval. Obama has the option of utilizing a "wavier" process to transfer detainees that have already been declared innocent and cleared for release. The Obama administration has not issued a single wavier.
Hart’s tragic suicide will only increase the scrutiny at the conditions of the men trapped in the purgatory of eternal imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay. With a hunger strike that shows no signs of slowing down, it seems this dark reminder of the human rights violations of the United States will not disappear from public view anytime soon.