After “a great deal of thought” since visiting Guantanamo on June 7, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to urge him to put in place “the most humane policies possible” and stop feeding the prisoners.
“I write to express to you my concerns and opposition to the force-feeding of detainees, not for reasons of medical necessity but as a matter of policy that stands in conflict with international norms,” the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote.
“During our visit, more than 60 percent of the 166 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay were categorized by the Department of Defense as ‘hunger strikers,’ with more than 40 of them being force-fed. Four detainees were in the facility’s hospital for problems related to their feeding or hunger strike,” she continued. “During our visit to the prison, we were briefed on the Department of Defense policies regarding force-feedings and I remain concerned that these policies are out of step with international norms, medical ethics and practices of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.”
Feinstein noted the International Committee of the Red Cross, World Medical Association, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and three UN Special Rapporteurs have opposed the force-feeding of the Gitmo hunger strikers.
“The WMA recently stated that ‘[f]orcible feeding is never ethically acceptable,” and “that physicians should never be used to break hunger strikes through acts such as force-feeding.’ The American Medical Association has supported the WMA’s position on this matter,” she added.
“In addition to the allegation that the Department of Defense’s force-feeding practices are out of sync with international norms, they also appear to deviate significantly from U.S. Bureau of Prison practices. Based on a review by Intelligence Committee staff, the significant differences between force-feedings at Guantanamo Bay and within the U.S. Bureau of Prisons relate to the manner in which detainees are force-fed, how often detainees are force-fed, and the safeguards and oversight in place during force-feedings.”
Detainees on hunger strike are being fed twice a day. “The visual impression is one of restraint: of arms, legs, and body,” Feinstein said.
Unlike Bureau of Prisons procedures, she added, inmates aren’t assessed for individual needs or videotaped during force-feeding at Gitmo.
“Hunger strikes are a long known form of non-violent protest aimed at bringing attention to a cause, rather than an attempt of suicide. I believe that the current approach raises very important ethical questions and complicates the difficult situation regarding the continued indefinite detention at Guantanamo,” Feinstein concluded. “I urge you to reevaluate the force-feeding policies at Guantanamo Bay and to put in place the most humane policies possible.”