U.S. force-feeding 46 at Guantanamo

Published July 17th, 2013 - 09:04 GMT
A watch tower looms above a now-closed area of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. (source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A watch tower looms above a now-closed area of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. (source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Eighty out of 166 detainees held at Guantanamo are on hunger strike, Pentagon officials said Tuesday, while 46 of them are being force-fed.

The number of inmates on hunger strike at the US prison has declined in the past week, the officials said.

They include 46 who are being given liquid nutrients through nasal tubes while three are under observation at a hospital, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale said.

The decline in hunger strikers – which at one point rose to 106 detainees – comes five months after the inmates launched their protest at the controversial War on Terror prison.

The hunger strike was sparked by searches of cells, but quickly grew to encompass frustration over the indefinite detention of prisoners, without charge or trial, at the military-run facility.

Although the US military has offered no definitive explanation as to why the number of strikers declined, the change coincided with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last week.

Detainees who agree not to go on hunger strike are allowed to live in communal conditions and interact with other inmates, allowing the detainees to participate in Ramadan prayers, officials said.

A large number of detainees were transferred to solitary cells in April after an incident that US authorities called a revolt.

The latest tally for the hunger strike came as a federal judge on Tuesday rejected a request by three Guantanamo detainees to stop the US government from force-feeding them.

US judge Rosemary Collyer ruled she did not have jurisdiction in the case because Congress has adopted laws that place the Guantanamo detainees outside the authority of the federal courts.

And she concluded there was nothing "so shocking or inhumane in the treatment" of the inmates that indicated a possible violation of the US Constitution.

She said the inmates did not have the right to starve to death and that the government had a legal duty to prevent suicide and starvation.

Allowing the detainees to die on hunger strike "would be contrary to the government's duty to provide life-saving medical care to persons in custody and would undermine the security and safety of the Guantanamo facility and the detainees housed there," Collyer wrote in her decision.

Another federal judge last week rejected a similar case and offered the same rationale, while describing the force-feeding as "painful, humiliating and degrading."

The American Medical Association, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross have all denounced the force feedings.

Senior US Senator Dianne Feinstein has expressed concern that the procedures violate medical ethics and "international norms."

As the month of Ramadan began, rapper and activist Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, volunteered to go though the process of being force-fed on camera in protest of US policy in Guantanamo.

President Barack Obama in May renewed his vow to close the Guantanamo prison and lift a moratorium on transferring 84 Yemeni detainees.

Although the Yemenis are cleared for transfer back to their home country, US officials have been reluctant to approve their release, fearing they may be tempted to join Islamist militant groups.

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