Over 100 Guantanamo prisoners have been on hunger strike since February to protest indefinite detention without charge trial at the hands of the U.S. government. At least 40 hunger strikers are being force-fed to prevent death, a procedure human rights organizations say amounts to torture.
In case you had any doubts about the validity of that claim, the British human rights organization Reprieve posted a disturbing video of Yasin Bey, (formerly known as Mos Def) voluntarily undergoing a force-feeding as laid out by Guantanamo’s standard operating procedures leaked to Al Jazeera in May.
After being strapped down and chained to a chair, the video shows a narrow tube being unsuccessfully inserted through Bey’s nostril as he cries out. Upon the second attempt to insert the tube, a terrified Bey repeatedly begs the doctors to stop before breaking down in tears.
Prisoners being force-fed at Guantanamo undergo this procedure twice a day. The Guardian explains that “medical personnel shackle the detainee ‘and a mask is placed over the detainee’s mouth to prevent spitting and biting’. A feeding tube is then passed through the detainee’s nostril into the stomach. The process takes about 20 to 30 minutes but they can be required to stay in the restraint chair for up to two hours until a chest x-ray confirms the nutrient has reached their stomach.”
The prisoner is then removed from restraint chair to “dry cell” where they are observed by a guard for up to an hour “for any indication of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting”. If they do vomit, they are returned to the restraint chair for the entire duration of the observation period in subsequent feeds.
If they bite the tube, the guards hold their head still for “as long as necessary for the detainee to relax his jaw”.
The U.S. says that it will limit force-feedings to the nighttime out of respect for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But after watching the above video, such a move is laughable for its ridiculousness. It’s the same as saying, “I promise not to torture you while the sun is up because I totally respect your religious freedom.” How about not torturing people at all?
According to Reprieve:
The video launches a campaign to rally support for Guantanamo prisoners who are on hunger-strike in protest against their detention without charge or trial. The campaign asks members of the public to undertake their own short-term hunger-strikes in solidarity with the prisoners, and donate the time to support them, while also raising the issue with their political representatives. The website [http://www.standfastforjustice.org/] consolidates the total number of hours of hunger-striking undertaken in this way.