Why questions about DeSantis’s Guantanamo record are in the public interest

Editorial: The Florida governor could be US president in two years so the world has a right to know

Friday 17 March 2023 07:16 GMT
Ron DeSantis is a front runner for the next Republican presidential candidate
Ron DeSantis is a front runner for the next Republican presidential candidate (AP)

Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, could be president of the United States in two years. His character and his record should be under the scrutiny that such high office demands.

The Independent believes that the American people, and the people of a world in which American power is paramount, have a right to know where he stands on the question of whether detainees at the US base at Guantanamo Bay were tortured.

Former prisoners at Guantanamo say that Mr DeSantis, when he served at the camp as a lawyer with the US Navy, witnessed aggressive force-feeding that they say amounted to torture.

It has been alleged that Mr DeSantis was present when prisoners on hunger strike were subjected to what the United Nations has assessed as torture.

However, Mr DeSantis did not respond to The Independent’s request for any comment on its story.

He has used his military service in campaign material as recently as five years ago, but he has never spoken in detail about his duties at Guantanamo.

As one of two leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president in next year’s election, we believe that it is in the public interest that he should answer these questions.

Did he witness the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo?

If so, did he consider the degree of force used as compatible with humane standards? It may be that he holds the same view as Barack Obama, who promised to close Guantanamo but then defended force-feeding as president, saying: “I don’t want these individuals to die.”

In our opinion, that is an inadequate defence of what the UN described as the “excessive violence used in many cases” of force-feeding, but at least the world can judge Mr Obama and his administration’s record because the former president made his views known at the time.

Mr DeSantis, if he aspires to the office that Mr Obama held, must say what he saw and what his conscience told him about it.

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