Florida Governor Ron DeSantis‘ former boss weighed in on the accusations that DeSantis oversaw the torture of prisoners during his tenure at Guantanamo Bay.
DeSantis, a Republican who has become a leading conservative figure in the United States, was accused of overseeing torture at the prison where the Untied States detained suspected terrorists, despite concerns over detainees being held without criminal charges being filed.
Mansoor Adayfi, former detainee at Guantanamo Bay who was held for 14 years without being charged with a crime, made the accusation during a November 2022 interview on the Eyes Left podcast, in which he said DeSantis observed guards force-feed him amid a hunger strike, laughing during the procedure. DeSantis, however, has not been accused of torturing inmates.
These accusations reemerged on Tuesday following a report from McClatchy/The Miami Herald that shined a light on the governor’s time at Guantanamo Bay, a topic on which he has offered little public comment. He joined the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate in 2006, four years after the facility opened.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday speaks to journalists in Tallahassee, Florida, alongside an inset showing Guantanamo Bay in 2013. DeSantis faces accusations of overseeing torture while working at Guantanamo Bay, and his former supervisor weighed in on the allegations Tuesday. CHENEY ORR/AFP via Getty Images; Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Amid these accusations of overseeing torture, DeSantis’ former supervisor, retired Navy Captain Patrick McCarthy, defended the governor, explaining that he was tasked “with detainees when there were any complaints to ensure they were lawfully addressed.”
“DeSantis served honorably and professionally in a very complex mission,” McCarthy told the Herald.
DeSantis has not publicly addressed Adayfi’s allegations, which could not be independently verified.
Retired Colonel Michael Bumgarner told the Herald that DeSantis would have had “very, very intimate knowledge” about conditions at Guantanamo Bay, which have been long criticized by human rights advocates as violating detainees’ rights and due process.
Force-feeding has been deemed unethical by the World Medical Association, whose Declaration of Tokyo states: “Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially, as stated in WMA Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers.”
The practice at Guantanamo has previously sparked backlash from human rights watchers, though the United States has not labeled it as torture.
While critics have long called for the closing of Guantanamo due to its conditions, others have supported the prison, arguing it was the best way to deal with threats to national security.
Accusations Surface as DeSantis Viewed as 2024 Hopeful
These allegations arrive as DeSantis is viewed as a contender in the 2024 GOP presidential race. Although he has not yet announced a campaign, polls show him as the Republican with the greatest likelihood of defeating former President Donald Trump for the nomination.
DeSantis’ embrace of conservative social policies, including support for legislation limiting the ability to receive an abortion in Florida and policies viewed as targeting the LGBT community, propelled him to national prominence. He is viewed as an alternative to Trump, whose approval ratings slipped amid legal troubles and after Republicans‘ underperformance in the 2022 midterms.
Newsweek has reached out to DeSantis’ office for comment.