[Ppnews] Force feeding at Guantanamo is now acknowledged
Political Prisoner News
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 22 14:46:33 EST 2006
Force-Feeding at Guantánamo Is Now Acknowledged
Published: February 22, 2006
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 The military commander
responsible for the American detention center at
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, confirmed Tuesday that
officials there last month turned to more
aggressive methods to deter prisoners who were
carrying out long-term hunger strikes to protest their incarceration.
The commander, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, head of
the United States Southern Command, said soldiers
at Guantánamo began strapping some of the
detainees into "restraint chairs" to force-feed
them and isolate them from one another after
finding that some were deliberately vomiting or
siphoning out the liquid they had been fed.
"It was causing problems because some of these
hard-core guys were getting worse," General
Craddock said at a breakfast meeting with
reporters. Explaining the use of the restraint
chairs, he added, "The way around that is you
have to make sure that purging doesn't happen."
After The New York Times reported Feb. 9 that the
military had begun using restraint chairs and
other harsh methods, military spokesmen insisted
that the procedures for dealing with the hunger
strikes at Guantánamo had not changed. They also
said they could not confirm that the chairs had been used.
On Tuesday, General Craddock said he had reviewed
the use of the restraint chairs, as had senior
officials at the Department of Defense, and they
concluded that the practice was "not inhumane."
General Craddock left no doubt, however, that
commanders had decided to try to make life less
comfortable for the hunger strikers, and that the
measures were seen as successful.
"Pretty soon it wasn't convenient, and they
decided it wasn't worth it," he said of the
hunger strikers. "A lot of the detainees said: 'I
don't want to put up with this. This is too much of a hassle.' "
A spokesman for the Southern Command, Lt. Col.
James Marshall, said that restraint chairs had
been used in the feeding of 35 of the detainees
so far, and that 3 were still being fed that way.
He said the number of prisoners refusing to eat
had fallen from 41 on Dec. 15 when the
restraint chairs were first used on a trial basis
to 5, according to a military spokesman.
Military officials have said the tough measures
were necessary to keep detainees from dying. But
while many of the strikers lost between 15 and 20
percent of their normal body weight, only a few
were thought to be in immediate medical danger,
two officers familiar with the strike said.
Lawyers for the detainees and several human
rights groups have assailed the new methods used
against the hunger strikers as inhumane, and as
unjustified by the reported medical condition of the prisoners.
According to newly declassified interview notes,
several detainees who had been on hunger strikes
told their lawyers during visits late last month
that the military had begun using harsher methods
more widely in the second week of January. One
Yemeni detainee, Emad Hassan, described the chair
to lawyers in interviews on Jan. 24 and 25.
"The head is immobilized by a strap so it can't
be moved, their hands are cuffed to the chair and
the legs are shackled," the notes quote Mr.
Hassan as saying. "They ask, 'Are you going to
eat or not?' and if not, they insert the tube.
People have been urinating and defecating on
themselves in these feedings and vomiting and
bleeding. They ask to be allowed to go to the
bathroom, but they will not let them go. They
have sometimes put diapers on them."
Another former hunger striker, Isa al-Murbati of
Bahrain, described a similar experience to his
lawyer, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, in an interview on Jan. 28.
On Jan. 10, he said, a lieutenant came to his
isolation cell and told him that if he did not
agree to eat solid food, he would be strapped
into the chair and force-fed. After he refused to
comply, he said, soldiers picked him up by the
throat, threw him to the floor and strapped him to the restraint chair.
Like Mr. Hassan, Mr. Murbati said he had been fed
two large bags of liquid formula, which were
forced into his stomach very quickly. "He felt
pain like a 'knife in the stomach' " Mr. Colangelo-Bryan said.
Detainees said the Guantánamo medical staff also
began inserting and removing the long plastic
feeding tubes that were threaded through the
detainees' nasal passages and into their stomachs
at every feeding, a practice that caused sharp
pain and frequent bleeding, they said. Until
then, doctors there said, they had been allowing
the hunger strikers to leave their feeding tubes in, to reduce discomfort.
Military spokesmen have generally discounted the
complaints, saying the prisoners are for the most
part terrorists, trained by Al Qaeda to use false stories as propaganda.
In a letter to a British physician and human
rights activist, Dr. David J. Nicholl, on Dec.
12, the former chief medical officer at
Guantánamo, Capt. John S. Edmondson of the Navy,
wrote that his staff was not force-feeding any
detainees but "providing nutritional
supplementation on a voluntary basis to detainees
who wish to protest their confinement by not taking oral nourishment."
General Craddock suggested that the medical staff
had indulged the hunger strikers to the point
that they had been allowed to choose the color of their feeding tubes.
Two other Defense Department officials said a
decision had been made to try to break the hunger
strikes because they were having a disruptive
effect and causing stress for the medical staff.
That effort was stepped up, one official said, in
January, when Captain Edmondson left Guantánamo
for a new post after receiving a Legion of Merit
Medal for "inspiring leadership and exemplary performance."
Eric Schmitt reported from Washington for this
article, and Tim Golden from New York.
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