Walter Ruiz, a Navy Reserve officer and defense attorney for al-Hawsawi, confirmed late Monday that his client would undergo the medical procedure to treat a rectal prolapse that has caused bleeding for about a decade. While the operation will be performed at 9:00pm, after court hours, Ruiz also confirmed that al-Hawsawi will waive his right to appear in that day’s portion of the pretrial hearing, so that he can rest beforehand, the Miami Herald reported.
The 48-year-old Saudi Arabian detainee stands accused, along with four other Guantanamo Bay detention camp detainees, of aiding the 19 hijackers who killed nearly 3,000 people when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001. Their trial date has yet to be set, but pretrial hearings are underway.
Before Ruiz shared the news of the scheduled surgery, which he himself learned of from a prosecutor in the case, the Miami Herald asked a senior Pentagon officer overseeing the military prison whether victims of torture would be given access to medical treatment.
“I think we’ve said all along that torture does not take place at Guantanamo Bay, no,” Admiral Kurt Tidd, Commander of the US Southern Command, replied. “The medical facilities that are provided for detainees is state-of-the-art quality. It’s the same level of medical care that’s provided to our men and women in uniform.”
The newspaper did not claim that al-Hawsawi was tortured at Gitmo, however. In fact, al-Hawsawi faced CIA enhanced interrogation techniques at black sites before being transferred to the US facility in Cuba during Labor Day weekend of 2006. He had been picked up in March 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, along with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged “principal architect” of the 9/11 attacks.
Al-Hawsawi’s anal fissure, chronic hemorrhoids and symptomatic rectal prolapse were mentioned in a 525-page portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, publicly released in December 2014. The report cited sessions involving “rectal rehydration,” “rectal feeding” and anal cavity exams conducted with “excessive force.”
His surgery was scheduled for Friday night apparently for “force-protection reasons,” Ruiz told the Herald, meaning that the operation would take place at the Navy base hospital, away from the Detention Center Zone of Gitmo, where al-Hawsawi is held in Camp 7 for high-security risk captives. According to court testimony, Camp 7 has a medical facility, but there are no details available to conclude that it could handle that treatment.
Having the surgery off the Gitmo premises seems to preclude al-Hawsawi from having any members of his legal team nearby during the surgery.
Gitmo spokesman Navy Captain John Filostrat simply told the Herald, “I prefer not to discuss the legal aspects of this issue,” via email Tuesday.
Filostrat would not answer the newspaper’s questions regarding whether a specialist in colorectal surgery would perform the medical procedure, if it would be in the Detention Center Zone, or whether any of the estimated 6,000 residents on the base would be having similar work done this week.
Al-Hawsawi purportedly helped the hijackers get western clothes and money, including credit cards and travelers’ checks. Since 2008 when he first sat before a US military tribunal, he has been aided by a pillow, the reason for which only came out with the Senate torture report.
“Mr. Hawsawi was tortured in the black sites. He was sodomized,” Ruiz told reporters Monday night, the Herald reported. The Navy Reserve officer and lawyer also told the press to “shy away from terms like rectal penetration or rectal rehydration because the reality is it was sodomy.”
Al-Hawsawi must now “manually reinsert parts of his anal cavity” to eliminate, Ruiz continued. “When he has a bowel movement, he has to reinsert parts of his anus back into his anal cavity,” which “causes him to bleed, causes him excruciating pain.”
That is reportedly why the five-foot-five-inch Saudi fasted during detainment, dropping below even the 100-pound weight he walked into Gitmo with in 2006.
Ruiz added that al-Hawsawi struggles with “cervical degeneration,” a neck injury resulting “walling,” an authorized CIA interrogation tactic whereby a subject is thrown against a wall. These consequences of torture should disqualify the military commissions from ordering an execution, Ruiz argues.