In a video posted today by The Guardian, rapper Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, is filmed undergoing the standard operating procedure for force-feeding hunger striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The video, made by the human rights organization Reprieve and director Asif Kapadia, demonstrates the excruciating process endured twice a day by at least 44 prisoners at the prison.
(Warning: the video is hard to watch and extremely upsetting.)
At present, 106 prisoners at Guantánamo are on a hunger strike that started in February, largely motivated by their indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial. The procedures to force-feed hunger strikes were recently published by Jason Leopold in Al Jazeera, and have been described as unbearably painful by a number of prisoners. (See examples of such accounts here and here.) The ACLU has joined other rights organizations stating our opposition to the ongoing force-feeding, which constitutes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Last month, after visiting the detention center, 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."
The force-feeding procedures have come under additional scrutiny ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this evening. The government has said it will try to only force-feed the prisoners at night, out of respect for the daytime fast. But this professed demonstration of religious accommodation doesn't address – and cannot in any way alleviate –the cruelty of the practice.