The US military came under fire this week for force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. A testimony from Yemeni prisoner Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, published in the New York Times, has described the forcible use of intravenous feeding tubes by prison staff. According to Moqbel, detainees are routinely restrained and fed through IV tubes:
“I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way... I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone…Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down.”
Moqbel claims this is the widespread practice of the prison officers: “There aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings… They are feeding people around the clock.”
Navy Captain Robert Durand, a spokesman for the detention camp, has called Moqbel’s accusations those allegations "absolutely false". According to the Defense Department, only around a dozen prisoners are being force-fed. Military doctors say the process is done gently, that the feeding tubes are lubricated before insertion -- one said he used olive oil -- and that the prisoners can choose which flavor of Ensure liquid meals they want. However, the military has acknowledged that prisoners are sometimes strapped into restraint chairs, with their head and limbs immobilized to keep them from removing the tubes.
The UN Human Rights commission has labelled the practice of force feeding a form of torture. In 2006 over 250 medical experts signed a letter to the Lancet condemning force feeding in Guantanamo.
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