Guantánamo hunger strikers force-fed

IssueJune 2013
News by David Polden

On 17 May, the mass hunger strike at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre reached its 100th day. Over 30 detainees were reported to have been force-fed, including two British residents, Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha.

On 13 May Al Jazeera published what it claimed was an internal policy document. According to this, force-feeding involves shackling hunger strikers to a ‘restraint chair’ (for up to two hours) and forcing a tube through a nostril and down into the stomach, to supply a ‘liquid nutritional supplement’.

If the detainee then vomits, force-feeding re-commences.

The mass hunger strike began in early February, reportedly sparked off by guards mishandling Qur’ans; by early May a majority of detainees were involved – the prison authorities admit to 100 taking part.

The American Medical Association protested to the Pentagon in late April, stating that ‘force-feeding of detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession’.

On 1 May, the UN’s human rights’ office declared that force-feeding amounts to ‘torture’ and breaks international law.

US president Barack Obama promised to close the Guantánamo detention centre by January 2010. 166 prisoners remain imprisoned there. None have been charged with any crime and 86 have long been ‘cleared for release’.