THE BLOG

'I Don't Want to Die... But I Am Prepared to Die if That Is What it Takes'

02/07/2013 09:11 BST | Updated 31/08/2013 10:12 BST

"I don't want to die. But I am prepared to die if that is what it takes. I can't take not knowing my destiny anymore."

These are the words of Nabil Hadjarab, one of my cleared clients in Guantánamo Bay. At the start of this week, after some long, painful, and heartfelt conversations, Reprieve and colleagues took his case (and three others) to a US federal judge.

Take his tubes out, we asked. Stop the force-feeding.

If we win, Nabil and my other clients will have a choice: to eat, or to continue to fast in protest.

This may strike you as extreme. It struck me as extreme in the early stages of my talks with these men. I have been visiting them in Guantánamo for years, and trying (and failing) to extract them from prison for all that time.

For that effort to end in a client's death by starvation is probably the most heartbreaking failure I can imagine.

But just try for a moment, as I did, to step into their shoes.

All the clients who are asking for this are cleared - most under President Bush. For them, each passing day is not time off a determined sentence, a square crossed off a finite calendar: it is one in a potentially endless succession of days.

My clients see no end in sight. They have stopped believing the government's promises of imminent freedom. They have certainly stopped raising their hopes because of rhetorical flourishes from President Barack Obama.

What they are asking, then, is the most basic choice of any human: the dignity to decide what goes in their bodies.

"Is this who we are?" the president asked in a recent speech. Yet we have seen no sign from the White House of the one action within their power likeliest to end the strike: the transfer of cleared people like my clients.

All this is about to get even more troubling, because Ramadan starts in a week. Muslims traditionally fast between sunup and sundown. Will my clients be force-fed in these hours? All Obama's Justice Department would say on Friday was that they would oppose my motion.

I know what my clients would say to Mr. Obama: you can't have it both ways. Like it or not, until you solve this crisis, this - the withered man strapped in a chair - this is America.