This post was originally published on AAI’s newsblog.
Inhumane treatment continues at Guantanamo Bay, where over 100 of the 166 prisoners detained there are in the midst of a hunger strike. Some have been fasting for over 100 days. The number of those currently being force-fed has reached at least a quarter of the total population of the prison, over 40 people. A military spokesman recently claimed that there was no threat to the health of the prisoner population there, despite reports that many inmates now weigh less than 100 pounds.
Seeking to raise awareness about the plight of these prisoners, rapper and MC Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def, underwent the standard operating procedure for force-feeding used in the detention center. This experience was made into a four-minute film through a partnership of the human rights organization Reprieve, Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia, and the Guardian. The procedure was carried out according to instructions in a leaked military document.
While Guantanamo officials insist that the procedure is, “humane, high-quality medical care to preserve life and health,” Guantanamo detainees themselves described the procedure as “extremely painful and the conditions … are abusive.” In an open letter to military doctors, the detainees wrote: “If you truly had my best medical interests at heart, you could have talked to me like a human being about my choices…” Force-feeding has been condemned by the Special Rapporteur on Health to the United Nations, who stated,
“Health care personnel may not apply undue pressure of any sort on individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike, nor is it acceptable to use threats of forced feeding or other types of physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have voluntarily decided to go on a hunger strike.”
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez re-emphasized the extent of the abuses, beyond the specific injustice of force-feeding: “At Guantánamo, the indefinite detention of individuals, most of whom have not been charged, goes far beyond a minimally reasonable period of time and causes a state of suffering, stress, fear and anxiety, which in itself constitutes a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”
Despite condemnation from the UN and other human rights organizations, authorities say the procedure will continue, though feedings will occur at night for the upcoming month to respect observances of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.