Gitmo Lawyer: The Immoral is Mundane

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Clive Stafford Smith is a lawyer who serves as the legal director of Reprieve, a British human rights agency that represents prisoners at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Not long ago, he made the news after being accused by military authorities of smuggling contraband briefs—that is to say, underwear—to clients there. Meanwhile, he is representing, among others, “Sami Haj, the Al Jazeera journalist, no more a terrorist than my grandmother,” Smith writes in an opinion piece in today’s Los Angeles Times.

Sami, who has been detained without a trial for nearly six years, has been on a hunger strike for the past 271 days, writes Smith. In a military policy intended to make hunger strikes less “convenient,” a 43-inch feeding tube is inserted through his nostril into his stomach twice a day, rather than simply being left in place.

Smith says he sympathizes with the soldiers who run the prison, most of whom are “unwaveringly polite to me—decent people trying to do a terrible job.” Nonetheless, from a prisoner’s standpoint, Gitmo has the worst conditions he has ever encountered, Smith says, in two decades of trying death-penalty cases.

The inhumanity that prisoners routinely encounter contrasts bizarrely with the ordinary, day-to-day experiences of others at Gitmo, he writes. “In this legal black hole where a human being has no rights, there is a stiff fine for harming an iguana.”

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