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Nasal tubes, gravity feeding bags, and the liquid nutrient Ensure used in Guantanamo force feeding. For more illustrations, see [1]

Detainees held in the United States' Guantanamo Bay detention camps have initiated both individual and widespread hunger strikes, and camp medical authorities have initiated force-feeding programs.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

In 2005, Captain John Edmonson, who was then Naval Base's chief medical officer, asserted that force feeding was a last resort, used only when counseling failed, and when the detainee's body mass index fell below the healthy range. According to Edmonson detainees normally cooperated, and restraints were unnecessary.[3] According to Edmonson detainees were normally only given 1500 Calories per day. The UN Human Rights Commission said it regards force-feeding at Guantanamo as a form of torture and the World Medical Association specifically prohibited force-feeding in its Declaration of Tokyo.

Rapper Yasiin Bey, also known as Mos Def, volunteered in a demonstration based on the leaked documents of the procedure at Guantanamo. Bey immediately submitted when doctors attempted to insert the tube into his nose for the second time.

Medical concerns

More than 250 doctors from the UK, the US, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands condemned the US for force-feeding of hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They said "We urge the US government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned," The doctors said also that the World Medical Association specifically prohibited force-feeding and they want the association to instigate disciplinary proceedings against any members known to have violated the code.[8]

In 1975 the World Medical Association issued the Declaration of Tokyo, guidelines for physicians. The declaration states: "Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgement concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially."[9]

Torture Claims

Former prisoner Fawzi al-Odah told the BBC in 2006 that force-feeding of hunger strikers in Guantanamo amounts to torture and the UN Human Rights Commission said it regards force-feeding at Guantanamo as a form of torture,[10][11] a charge the US firmly has repeatedly denied.[citation needed]

On 29 February 2006, Richard G. Murphy Jr. and other lawyers for detainee Mohammad Bawazir filed a claim that force-feeding was torture.[12] The lawyers claim that the military made the force-feeding process unnecessarily painful and humiliating to break a hunger strike that at one point included more than 100 detainees.


The earliest known case of force-feeding prisoners in Guantanamo Bay occurred in early 2002 when two hunger strikers were hospitalized for malnutrition. The pair were holdouts from a hunger strike which began as a response to Guantanamo guards removing a makeshift turban from one of the prisoners. The strike initially had up to 194 participants, however that number dropped precipitously when the general in charge of the prison announced that prisoners would be allowed to wear turbans.[13] In these initial cases, prisoners were sedated as opposed to restrained prior to being given nutrition.[14] Restraints were used in force feeding at least as early as early 2005 in response to another hunger strike by prisoners to protest prison conditions. In this case, 105 prisoners were refusing food, although to varying extents. The military acknowledged that twenty prisoners were being force fed. In these cases, many prisoners passively accepted nasal feeding, though others were restrained with leg shackles and handcuffs.[15]

Gurney with leg restraints


Though initially denied,[16] the military acknowledged use of "restraint chairs" for feeding hunger-striking prisoners in 2006 to prevent them from vomiting up forced nutrition.[17] In 2005, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the military to provide to prisoners' attorneys: notice within 24 hours of the commencement of force feeding, the prisoners' medical records, and weekly status updates about the prisoners' health.[18]

See also


  1. Photos from Guantanamo’s force-feeding facilities, Washington Post 10 May 2013
  2. "Guantanamo Standard Operating Procedures". Joint Task Force Guantanamo. 2003. Archived from the original on 2010-02-02. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kathleen Rehm (2005-12-01). "GTMO feedings humane, within medical care standards". The Wire (JTF-GTMO). Archived from the original on 2010-02-02. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  4. JTF-GTMO (2007-03-16). "Measurements of Heights and Weights of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2008-12-22.  mirror
  5. Sonia Saini, Almerindo Ojeda. "Heights, weights, and in-processing dates". Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas. Archived from the original on 2009-12-21. 
  6. "Mefasurements of Heights and Weights of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (ordered and consolidated version)". Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, from DoD data. Archived from the original on 2009-12-21. 
  7. Andy Worthington (2009). "Starvation statistics". Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas. Archived from the original on 2009-12-21. 
  12. Josh White (1 March 2006). "Guantanamo Force-Feeding Tactics Are Called Torture". Washington Post. 
  13. Schmitt, Eric (2 March 2002). "A NATION CHALLENGED: CAPTIVES; A Concession On Turbans Calms Protest In Cuba Camp". Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  14. Dao, James (2 April 2002). "Navy Doctors Force-Feeding 2 Prisoners". Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  15. Lewis, Neil A. (18 September 2005). "Widespread Hunger Strike at Guantanamo". Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  16. Golden, Tim (9 February 2006). "Tough U.S. Steps in Hunger Strike at Camp in Cuba". Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  17. Schmitt, Eric; Golden, Tim (22 February 2006). "Force-Feeding at Guantánamo Is Now Acknowledged". Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  18. Harris, Neil A. (27 October 2005). "Striking Guantánamo Detainees Gain in Ruling". Retrieved 2 November 2012. 

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