Medical associations throw support behind Guantanamo nurse who refused to force-feed

November 19, 2014

Image depicting force-feeding of Mos Def

Medical groups including the American Nurses Association (ANA) have come out in support of a nurse who refused to force-feed a hunger-striking Guantanamo detainee.

The nurse’s refusal to carry out the practice – which is banned by, among others, the World Medical Association – was revealed by a client of international human rights NGO Reprieve in a call to his lawyer at the charity.

The ANA wrote last month to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel arguing that the nurse should not be punished for his ethical decision not to force-feed hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo. The unnamed nurse had his deployment cut short after his refusal to force-feed and the military is now considering whether to discharge him honourably, dishonourably, or allow him to continue to serve out the two remaining years of his service. If he is discharged the nurse, who has already served 18 years in the military, will not receive his service, his pension and possibly his veterans’ benefits.

148 men remain detained without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay. Last summer a mass hunger strike by detainees, peacefully protesting their indefinite detention, brought force-feeding to the world’s attention. In a recent landmark case a US federal judge recently ordered the US government to release video tapes of Reprieve’s client, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, being force-fed. The US government is expected to appeal the decision.

Cori Crider, Strategic Director of Reprieve and attorney for men in Guantanamo, said: “The video footage I have seen shows the grim reality of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay. In refusing to force-feed, this nurse did nothing other than stand by his professional ethical obligations that have served him well throughout a long career – as the American Nurses Association has rightly recognised. The DOD must not persecute this man for doing the right thing.”

ENDSNotes to editors 1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160 or in the US: 001 (917) 855 8064.