Efforts to Close Guantánamo Must Be Accompanied By an End to Force-Feeding

In nominating Clifford Sloan earlier this week to head the Office of Guantánamo Closure, President Obama took a welcome step toward closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay. However, as the hunger strike at the prison continues, more can and must be done now to ameliorate the egregious human rights violations taking place there.

Over 60 percent of the 166 detainees have joined a hunger strike that began in February, prompted in part by the prisoners' despair over their indefinite detention, even though many have long been cleared for release. Forty-four detainees are now being force-fed. As the ACLU has explained, force-feeding is an excruciating process that violates fundamental human rights including freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The practice has been decried by the American Medical Association, World Medical Association, International Committee of the Red Cross, numerous United Nations human rights experts, and more. Just two days ago, 150 doctors and medical professionals published an open letter asking President Obama to allow them to treat hunger-striking prisoners. The plea follows a letter last month from 13 detainees asking for civilian doctors, as a result of their mistrust of military doctors who have been force feeding them.

After visiting the detention center in early June, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote an open letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, expressing her concerns over the procedure, which she said is "inconsistent with international norms." Senator Feinstein urged the government to "reevaluate the force-feeding policies at Guantanamo Bay and to put in place the most humane policies possible." We welcome this intervention. Just last month, the ACLU and a coalition of other human rights groups wrote to Secretary Hagel, urging the government to stop force-feeding and calling the process "inherently cruel, inhuman, and degrading."

Indeed, the policy is grossly inhumane. An article published yesterday in the Daily Beast provides an interactive guide to force-feeding, and describes the process in excruciating detail. Abalmalik Wahab, a Yemeni national who has been imprisoned at Guantánamo since 2002 and has yet to have his day in court, said of procedure: "I was so afraid…They kept asking me to swallow the tube…but it was my first time. It was so difficult." When the feeding tube was removed, Wahab said it felt like they were sucking his stomach out. Wahab entered the prison weighing 195 pounds and is reportedly down to 129. "I'm a skeleton," he says. "You can count all of my ribs from 1 meter away." He is being force-fed twice a day. He can barely sleep: "Sleeping is hard… because I'm sleeping on my bones."

Renewed efforts to close the prison are commendable, but the administration must also address the immediate rights violations caused by the force-feeding program – and put an end to it.

Learn more about Guantánamo Bay and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Add a comment (3)
Read the Terms of Use


I watched a u tube video which demonstrated the procedure involved in force feeding an individual. I wanted to look away but forced myself to watch. It looked to be worse than the waterboarding demonstration I had witnessed in the past. I cried.
President Obama has the power to stop the force feeding according to Judge Kessler.
Shame on our President for not sending this order.


It isn't just the president who can close this place. And I don't think Congress OR the Senate is going to do their part any time soon.
Everything he's ever suggested to them they've voted against just b/c he's him.
I mean, I was Republican when he submitted the Jobs Bill and watched them shoot it down. Then they shot down Health Care Reform and several other things besides that. I know b/c I stopped being Republican after watching this BS happen for two whole years. I couldn't understand why they didn't want to work with him even a little and it disgusted me beyond belief. I finally got sick of watching it and decided to have nothing to do with them anymore.
Closing Guantanamo was another of those ideas they decided to shoot down just b/c President Obama brought it up; I can't think of any OTHER reason to be that bullheaded about every single solitary thing he brings up, and I don't think he's the only one doing it. In fact I'd blame them more than him b/c of all the ridiculous refusals they've made since they came into power in 2010.
It's the most revolting thing I've ever seen.

OTOH I'd like to know if this means they've found everyone responsible for plotting and/or killing my daughter's dad and thousands of other people. It may just be me, but I don't believe ANY of them have been called to account for what they did. The four who flew the planes died at the site of their murders, and I don't call dying "accounting for what you did."
Then Usama bin Laden was caught, but they killed him right then, and I don't call that "accounting for what he did" either.

Not one of them had to feel any remorse for what they did, and UBL sure as shinola never felt anything. HE sent information to families of his victims, talking about how he was going to do MORE things. As if anybody wanted to hear from him; well I didn't.
Anyway, not only did Eric not know the people who killed him, he never understood what was happening to cause his death. Nobody in Tower 1 understood what was happening until they came outside, and he never made it out of Tower 1 alive OR dead. His body was never recovered in even the smallest shred; they had his DNA after we gave it to them but never found anything matching it.


I only have one issue with this and it goes something like this: Nobody's forcing them to starve themselves, so why in God's name are the force-feeders the ONLY ones being blamed for the situation?
Nobody can starve a person who's in prison. The only way that can possibly happen is for the person to do it to himSELF.
So why is nobody outraged that they're starving themselves and only up in arms about people trying to force them to eat?
If you igNORED them and let their starvation progress to death everyone would call you a murderer. You can't freakin' win with some people. They have to complain about everything no matter what you do.
At least one of the people at Guantanamo is probably guilty of what he's there for, and I'm having the hardest time in the world having any sympathy for him b/c someone in our family is dead because of their plan. HIS plan, or at least his goddam money to help make it happen. But I have no idea if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is one who starved himself in protest.

The ones who are guilty were willing to burn themselves into nothingness if it meant they could "kill the Americans in their homeland," but everyone is acting surprised that others of them are willing to kill themselves to avoid their penalty, if found guilty, by starving themselves to death.
That makes no sense. I'm sorry but I can find no sense in it. Admittedly, I know someone who died on September 11 and feel emotional about it, but if I remember CORRECTly all the people told us they were sorry for our loss and that they "feel it with you." Many even said they were outraged at what had happened and wanted to find the people responsible, make them account for their crime.
Yet now they appear to be more on the side of a person who probably DID help finance the operation.
Why? I totally don't get it. How did it go from "we feel your pain" to "we're angry at how the Guantanamo suspects are being mistreated?" Even, possibly, Khalid Sheik Mohammed?

Personally, I don't CARE how Khalid Sheik Mohammed feels. He didn't care how any of the dead people were going to feel about losing their lives. In fact I think he liked that it happened but that's my conjecture and I'll leave it at that.
I wish the guy well, I hope he receives no more torture but I could care LESS how he feels about being imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. At least he gets to be alive TO experience emotions, and isn't THAT something? Well it's more than Eric and all those other people are getting, anyway.
When they helped do what they did (the ones who did it) they robbed Eric of every single constitutional, universal and any other right he had prior to being brutally murdered by them and their plan.
That's why I'm finding it hard to give a shit what Khalid Sheik Mohammed thinks. If I could talk to him face-to-face I'm positive he WOULDN'T like what I'd say to him. I wouldn't even be able to talk to him without getting too angry, which is why I'm glad I never have to say anything to him.
Honestly, I have no idea how the guy who's defending Khalid Sheik Mohammed can talk to the guy without becoming overly emotional. Even if he DIDN'T know a victim of September 11, I figure he probably grieved as an American. I have no idea how anyone finds a way to separate their emotions from their intellect that way. I've tried it and failed so many times I might as well wear the shape of an L on my forehead, as the song says; L being code for Loser.
Separating intellect from emotions is not my forte.
Feeling emotions seems to be the only strength I have, and I don't always find a way to make it work FOR instead of against me.

Sign Up for Breaking News