Gitmo detainees take force-feeding to court

Federal court will hear an appeal to end the practice, while an activist will be force-fed on court steps

By Natasha Lennard

Published October 17, 2013 3:00PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Shane T. McCoy)
(Reuters/Shane T. McCoy)

Appealing to end a practice that has been deemed cruel and inhumane by the international medical community, Guantanamo Bay detainee will give testimony against force-feeding in federal court on Friday.

Lawyers with human rights group Reprieve, who represent a number of Gitmo detainees, report that there are at least 16 men still continuing a hunger strike and being brutally force-fed twice a day. The hunger strike, which began in February and at one point saw over 40 prisoners force-fed, has been declared officially over by prison officials despite the continued force-feedings. "“The U.S. authorities have, with some glee, announced the hunger strike to be over. What they fail to tell you is the horrific things they did to crush the hunger strikers’ spirits" said the detainees' lawyer Cori Crider. “Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are still being brutally and painfully force-fed twice a day. It is abhorrent that the prison authorities continue to conduct this practice which President Obama, the Commander in Chief, himself said was an affront to our nation’s values,” Crider commented.

Reprieve noted in a release about the upcoming court hearing:

The petitioners in the appeal are Abu Wa’el Dhiab, Shaker Aamer, and Ahmed Belbacha, represented by human rights charity Reprieve and Jon B Eisenberg. All of the men on hunger strike at the prison – currently at least 16 – are being force-fed, a practice denounced by the World Medical Association and the UN, and described in a recent judgement by Judge Gladys Kessler as ‘painful, humiliating, and degrading’.

At 11am on the morning of the appeal, activist Andrés Conteris, 52 and on day 103 of a fast, will himself be force-fed on the steps of the court. Conteris began his fast on July 8th of this year to protest the force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Pelican Bay Prison, California.

In response to the Government’s claim that force-feeding is “humane,” the appeal notes “that the Ninth Circuit recently upheld California’s legislative ban on force-feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras, deeming the ban to be a lawful pursuit of the state’s ‘interest in preventing animal cruelty,’” adding: “The irony of protecting ducks and geese from a practice that is inflicted on human beings at Guantánamo Bay speaks volumes.”

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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