Muhammad Bawazir, a Yemeni detained at the Guantánamo military prison who has engaged in a number of hunger strikes throughout his captivity, refused to be transferred to a country in the Balkans. Bawazir’s attorney would not name the country but said he wanted to go where he had family to support him.
The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reported that his attorney, John Chandler, “spent months trying to persuade Bawazir to accept the resettlement.” Bawazir decided at the last minute not to leave.
Chandler described the decision as the product of “a very emotional reaction from a man who has been locked up for 14 years.” He suggested Bawazir may have became “institutionalized” and compared him to the character of Brooks in “The Shawshank Redemption.”
Bawazir was 21 years-old when he was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001. That year, he had worked in a hospital in Kunduz.
Like a number of prisoners at Guantánamo, he launched a hunger strike on August 8, 2005, and concluded it on January 22, 2006. His lawyers challenged his treatment in the United States courts but were unable to win any relief.
According to court filings, Bawazir was subject to a restraint chair and forced to endure feeding from a tube. He claimed personnel informed him that none of this would be necessary “if he chose to eat,” which led Bawazir to conclude this treatment was “torture” for his resistance.
Bawazir went on hunger strike again multiple times. However, after January 11, 2006, personnel began inserting a much larger tube than before. They used to leave a smaller tube in place between feedings, but now they inserted and removed it each time, adding to the abuse.
In later efforts to challenge the prison’s treatment of Bawazir, his attorneys alleged Bawazir was told he would be denied medical treatment until he ended his hunger strike. He suffered from sinusitis and hemorrhoids.
Bawazir has never been charged with any offenses. He was cleared for release by President George W. Bush in 2008, but the terms of release were “conditional.” He was denied the prospect of rejoining family where he lived like others denied release to Yemen, because of their nationality.
Two other captives, a Yemeni and Egyptian, were released to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Earlier this month, ten Yemenis were transferred to Oman. It was the largest transfer of captives since President Barack Obama took office.
This is typically what has happened when the Pentagon agrees to release captives. They are sent to countries where the Pentagon is certain their actions will be closely monitored by the local government.
It may seem odd that Bawazir’s attorney would not name the country, where he refused to be transferred, but the government is ultra-secretive about matters related to detainee transfers.
Bawazir has family in United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia. The U.S. either refused or was unable to arrange transfer to one of those countries, even though they are close allies.
Guantánamo Bay now has 91 captives. Thirty-five captives are cleared for transfer.
Meanwhile, as the Obama administration makes progress freeing captives, the president refuses to release video of former Guantánamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab being force-fed.
A court ordered the footage released in 2014. Sixteen U.S. media organizations, including The New York Times, AP, and McClatchy Newspapers, have pushed for the footage to be made public.
Attorneys for the human rights organization Reprieve, who filed the case and have watched the video, say the footage is “disturbing.”
“It’s disappointing that—yet again—Obama’s lawyers have suppressed the evidence that shows most eloquently why the President is right, and Guantánamo ought to close,” declared Cori Crider, a Reprieve attorney for Guantánamo captives. “I hoped for better from the Solicitor General, and from an administration that promised to be ‘the most transparent in history.'”
“Make no mistake—the force-feeding tapes would make your blood run cold. One assumes that is why they have fought so hard to keep it secret. We’ll keep pushing for the truth in the Court of Appeals,” Crider added.