Lawyers for four Guantánamo captives are asking a federal court in Washington, D.C., to put an end to the “grotesque” practice of force-feeding at the Pentagon prison, even during the Ramadan fast. According to Carol Rosenberg (The Miami Herald), guards strap a captive into a restraint chair twice daily, then a medical professional snakes a tube up the captive’s nose, down the back of his throat and into his stomach to pump a nutritional supplement inside.
Officials defend the use of forced-feeding as modeled after U.S. Bureau of Prisons policy. But the lawyers argue that, unlike federal prisoners, these Guantánamo captives have never been charged with a crime and are held not for punishment but more broadly as war-on-terror detainees. “There cannot be a legitimate penological interest in force-feeding petitioners to prolong their indefinite detention,” says the 30-page filing by Oakland-based attorney Jon B. Eisenberg and London-based lawyer Cori Crider of the human rights group Reprieve. “It facilitates the violation of a fundamental human right. The very notion of it is grotesque.”
As of Monday, 44 captives were on the force-feed list, said Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, a Guantánamo spokesman. House said the military started July with a tally of 106 detainee hunger strikers, two getting tube-feedings in the prison hospital. [. . .] The Pentagon has about 140 Navy doctors, nurses and corpsmen carrying out the feedings.
[. . .] The lawyers say the captives — Saudi Shaker Aamer, 46, Syrian Jihad Diyab, 41, and Algerians Ahmed Belbacha, 44, and Nabil Hadjarab, 33 — seek a speedy hearing on the forced-feeding policy “because of the imminent risk that it will deprive them of the ability to observe the Ramadan fast, which commences this year on July 8. Petitioners therefore ask this Court, at a minimum, to enjoin any force-feeding between sunup and sundown during the month of Ramadan.”
In past Ramadans, the prison has said it tube-fed hunger strikers at night to allow protesters to participate in Islam’s holy fasting month. Guantánamo spokesmen would not say last week if the U.S. military medical forces would or could conduct night-time forced-feedings during Ramadan now that the hunger strike is so widespread.