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7 Jun, 2013 13:50

One-quarter of Gitmo prisoners now being force-fed

One-quarter of Gitmo prisoners now being force-fed

Guantanamo Bay’s medical team is now force-feeding 41 of the 166 prisoners at the US detention facility. With four detainees in hospital, the strike shows no signs of abating a month after President Obama again pledged to close the base.

The latest press release from the facility reported the rise in the number of inmates receiving enteral feeds, up from the previous 39. The report also claims that the four prisoners currently undergoing treatment in a detainee hospital are not in critical condition.

The practice of force-feeding the prisoners as a way of avoiding the political ramifications of their death has been condemned as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” which is illegal under international law.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) brought the issue to the attention of the US government back in May in a joint letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The rights group detailed the demeaning process by which a detainee is “strapped into a chair with restraints on his legs, arms, body, and sometimes head, immobilizing him.”

 “I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before,” hunger-striker Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel told HRW, relating the horrors of Gitmo’s force-feeding room.

President Barack Obama’s pledge last month to work to close the facility has apparently fallen by the wayside, with no steps taken thus far. He also promised to end the ban on sending prisoners who had been cleared for transfer back to Yemen, one of the main obstacles impeding the closure of the camp. 

On Monday, a Republican representative proposed legislation that would effectively force Obama to keep the facility open. The wording in the 2014 defense authorization bill also prohibits the transfer of Guantanamo inmates to the US or countries like Yemen, and would channel $247.4 million of state funds to constructions costs.

The legislation was slammed by Democrats as “a ridiculous waste of money” when the US Military is making cuts to its budget. 

Pleas falling on deaf ears

The prisoners at Guantanamo published a plea at the end of May for the physicians overseeing their detention at the camp to be changed. They argued that the current personnel are not impartial to the wishes of the US government. 

The letter was signed by nine of the Gitmo prisoners, as well as the lawyers of several others.

Prisoners at Guantanamo began their hunger strike four months ago as a desperate attempt to attract international attention to their plight. Some of the inmates have been held without a trial for over a decade, and many have expressed fears they will spend the rest of their lives in their cells in Guantanamo.