In an editorial published Wednesday, the New York Times editorial board criticized the Obama administration for saying it will oppose the release of Tariq Ba Odah, a long-term hunger striker who’s been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than 13 years, despite never being charged with a crime.
Last month Rolling Stone published an article in which Ba Odah’s lawyer, Omar Farah, described the human rights nightmare the 36-year-old prisoner has experienced since arriving at Guantanamo, and the precarious state of Ba Odah’s health.
“Ba Odah has not eaten – not voluntarily, at least – since February of 2007. As a result, he is force-fed, usually in the morning and again in the evening. Guards remove Ba Odah from his cell, several at a time in protective gear, strap him to a restraint chair, and medical staff force a liquid supplement through his nose and into his stomach. ‘Waterboarding,’ Ba Odah calls it, both for the obvious torture analogy and because, at times, it has caused him to urinate and vomit.”
Ba Odah, who at the time weighed less than 80 pounds, says he has been held almost exclusively in solitary confinement since May 2009. He’s been on hunger strike for eight years in protest of his treatment at Guantanamo Bay, and the Obama administration’s failure to close the notorious prison, despite repeated promises to do so.
Ba Odah’s lawyers recently filed a habeas petition on behalf of their client, calling for his release and noting that he is at grave risk of death and was “cleared for release by top U.S. security agencies more than five years ago.”
The Times editorial board takes the administration to task for its unwillingness to release Ba Odah.
“Senselessly, the Department of Justice has said it will fight [the petition], according to Mr. Ba Odah’s lawyer,” reads the editorial. “If he were to die in custody, Mr. Ba Odah would become the first inmate at Guantánamo Bay to die from malnutrition. That would be a shameful outcome that Mr. Obama can easily prevent.”