Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Is Forced Feeding in Response to Hunger Strikes a Violation of the Prohibition of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment?

Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Is Forced Feeding in Response to Hunger Strikes a Violation of the Prohibition of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment?

Article excerpt

This panel was convened at 2:30 pm, Thursday, April 10, by its moderator, Nigel Rodley of the University of Essex, who introduced the panelists: Baher Azmy of the Center for Constitutional Rights; William K. Lietzau formerly of DoD; Walter Ruiz of Walter Ruiz Law; Rachel VanLandingham of Stetson University College of Law; and Stephen N. Xenakis of Physicians for Human Rights.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY NIGEL RODLEY

I would like to thank the American Society of International Law for kindly inviting me to moderate this panel, which is on a topic that is replete with really profound legal, political, philosophical, and professional ethical issues. The speakers will be able to take you across the range of viewpoints on this topic, from, on the one hand, those who feel that if a state deprives somebody of his freedom, the state can't just allow that person to lose his life, and on the other hand, those who feel that a person, even deprived of liberty, has to be given the same fundamental autonomy and respect as any other person with human dignity and that the state should not intervene against the person's will to save his life, unless there is any evidence of an impairment of will that could be relevant. That is going to be the range of legal and moral philosophical issues that we will be canvassing.

We will also be looking at the interplay between international human rights law and international humanitarian law, with the law of armed conflict, where there will also be some different takes from the perspective of our panelists.

I am going to introduce them to you in the order in which they are going to speak, and I will also introduce myself. My name is Nigel Rodley, a longtime member of the American Society of International Law. I am the current chair of the UN Human Rights Committee, a former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and am now at the University of Essex where I chair the Human Rights Center.

The first speaker will be Walter Ruiz, who is now in private practice, but who was formerly a naval officer and was appointed as defense attorney for captives before the Guantanamo Military Committee. He is a defense attorney for Mustafa al-Hawsawi.

The second speaker is going to be Baher Azmy, the Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, who has been involved in the defense of a number of Guantanamo detainees.

The third speaker will be Stephen Xenakis, who is a medical expert with Physicians for Human Rights. He's a former medical officer from the armed forces who rose to the rank of general before he retired. He spent nearly three months at Guantanamo and has interviewed multiple detainees.

Then we will have Rachel VanLandingham, who is the Bruce R. Jacob Visiting Assistant Professor at Stetson University College of Law and former Chief of International Law of USCENTCOM. She spent four years on detention issues and has been the first-ever command liaison to the ICRC.

We will finish the presentations with William Lietzau on my right here, who is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Rule of Law and Detainee Policy between February 2010 and September 2013, and former Special Advisor to the General Counsel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

These are going to be brief, 5-minute presentations. Then I will allow each of the panelists to ask a few questions of each other, and I won't necessarily exclude myself from that process. And then we will open it up to the other participants, and I hope that there will be a lively discussion on these issues.

Without further ado, I am going to give the floor to Walter Ruiz, starting at that end.

WALTER RUIZ

The question that has been posed and framed for me is: Is forced feeding in response to a hunger strike inhumane and degrading treatment that amounts to torture? Is it in fact punishment? I will speak to that from the lens that I have, which is as a participant in Guantanamo defense. …

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