USA: Stop force feeding of Guantanamo Bay inmates

October 6, 2014

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A US federal judge has ordered the disclosure of videotapes that show the force feeding of an inmate on hunger strike at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility by medical personnel, which is commonly regarded as a form of torture.

Several days before the first legal challenge to the force feeding was due to begin, Judge Gladys Kessler of the Washington DC district court ordered the US government to prepare public versions of 28 videos showing a Syrian detainee, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, forcibly removed from his cell and fed through a tube inserted through his nose into his stomach. The tapes will provide unprecedented visibility into a practice that Dhiab and other detainees says amounts to torture, a claim categorically rejected by the Obama administration and the military.

In a court filing through his attorneys, Dhiab said he wanted the American public to see the force-feeding and cell removals “to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed. If the American people stand for freedom, they should watch these tapes. If they truly believe in human rights, they need to see these tapes.” Abu Wa’el Dhiab has been detained without charge at Guantánamo Bay since 2002, despite the US government clearing him for release since 2009. He and an undisclosed number of detainees have launched hunger strikes to protest their prolonged confinement and their treatment.

Restraint chairs

In response, the US government filed court documents, including an unclassified version of its recent restraint chair and hunger strike protocols, and sworn declarations from Guantanamo medical officers. According to Katherine Hawkins, lead investigator with the nonpartisan Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, the new disclosures are important. “It confirms what detainees’ counsel have alleged since 2005 when the restraint chairs were introduced, and what the Constitution Project report and research by Senate Intelligence Committee staff gave more evidence for last year: The use of the restraint chair for force feeding is not a medical decision, and not in line with general Bureau of Prison practices. (…) It is not even in line with general Guantanamo use-of-force policy for the use of the restraint chair. It is being used as a punishment for hunger striking.”

In a disturbing video, US actor and rapper Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, submits voluntary to a force-feeding enactment, in which a restraint chair is involved. 

Full article in The Guardian, 3 October 2014