US court to hear appeal on ‘painful, humiliating, and degrading’ force-feeding at Guantanamo

October 16, 2013

Image depicting force-feeding of Mos Def

US court to hear appeal on ‘painful, humiliating, and degrading’ force-feeding at Guantanamo   A federal court will on Friday hear an appeal from Guantanamo Bay detainees asking that it rule to end force-feeding – during which ‘a detainee is shackled to a specially-made restraint chair and a tube is forced into his nostril, down his esophagus, and through to his stomach’. As the appeal is heard, an activist from Witness against Torture will be force-fed on the steps of the court.   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.”   While the Government has attempted to argue that the issue does not lie within the court’s jurisdiction, lawyers for the detainees say it does, as the force-feeding taking place is a “deprivation of substantial rights,” and “a seizure of [the detainee’s] internal organs through the forcible invasion of his gastro-intestinal tract.”   The appeal also argues that the detainees were denied their right to religious free exercise because authorities at the prison deprived them of the ability to conduct communal prayer unless they stopped hunger-striking.   Reprieve’s Strategic Director and lawyer for the detainees, Cori Crider, said: “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.”