The issue came to the forefront on Monday after the New York Times published an op-ed by an inmate at the Guantanamo Bay prison detailing the hunger strike he and other inmates have undergone and the harsh treatment they have received because of it.
The detainee, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, says he began his hunger strike on Feb. 10 and described the “painful” experience of being force-fed. “There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone,” he wrote.
The Constitution Project’s report, which made headlines on Tuesday for its wider conclusion that the U.S. government did indeed torture terror suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, also criticized force-feeding and said the policy should end.
The report said that Gitmo authorities have not been following proper federal prison guidelines when resorting to force-feeding hunger striking inmates, including introducing force-feeding too soon into the protest and using a so-called “restraint chair,” which the Task Force said “completely immobilizes a person strapped into it, using a lap belt and straps that immobilize the head as well as wrist and ankle restraints.”
Task Force member Dr. Gerald Thomson expounded at a press conference on Tuesday releasing the group’s report, suggesting that such practices could be labeled as torture:
THOMSON: You know that the task force came out very strongly condemning force feeding and this is in keeping and in line with international ethical standards both of professional treatment of hunger strikers and the ethics of treating hunger strikers. We do not believe that force-feeding should be an approach to the hunger strike. If you can imagine being a detainee and using refusal to eat as a form of protest and then you are forced to eat, forced physically to eat, by being strapped to into a specially made chair and having restraints put on your limbs, your arms, your legs, you body, your head so that you cannot move. Having a tube inserted into your throat that extends into your stomach and you’re trying to resist that with the only muscles that are free in your throat. Pain, discomfort, obviously. […]
The World Medical Association and international officials have clearly identified that process as cruel, in human and degrading treatment. And given the level of brutality could extend to torture.
Watch the clip:
“Forced feeding of detainees is a form of abuse and must end,” the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment says, recommending that “the United States should adopt standards of care, policies and procedures regarding detainees engaged in hunger strikes that are in keeping with established medical professional ethical and care standards set forth as guidelines for the management of hunger strikers in the 1991 World Medical Association Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikes (revised 1992 and 2006), including affirmation that force-feeding is prohibitedand that physicians should be responsible for evaluating, providing care for and advising detainees engaged in hunger strikes.”