50 Guantanamo detainees on hunger strike
Approximately 50 detainees held in military custody at the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are currently on hunger strike. The majority of the hunger strikers are being force-fed by the Guantánamo authorities. The force-feeding methods may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In addition, Amnesty International is concerned by reports of the use of excessive force against hunger strikers when being extracted from their cells, and the blanket use of the restraint chair during force-feeding, even in the case of detainees who do not resist.
Binyam Mohamed has been force-fed three times per day since 14 January. He recently told his lawyer how he witnessed other hunger strikers being forcibly extracted from their cells and beaten, apparently for refusing to be force-fed. Binyam Mohamed reported that he “voluntarily” goes to the force-feeding sessions out of fear of being subjected to the same treatment. He also reported that he is painfully strapped into a restraint chair for each of the force-feeding sessions. Although the feeding procedure may last only 15 minutes, Binyam Mohamed is strapped into the chair for two to three hours.
Lakhdar Boumediene, who has been held in Guantánamo for more than seven years after being seized in Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2002, has been on hunger strike since December 2006. Although he initially resisted being force-fed, he ceased to do so when his immediate release was ordered by a federal judge on 20 November 2008. However, Lakhdar Boumediene recently informed his lawyers that he nonetheless continues to be strapped into a restraint chair for each of the twice-daily force-feeding sessions. His wrists, torso and ankles are restrained, his head is forced back and tied, his mouth is gagged and a thick nasal tube is inserted in one of his nostrils. He has told his lawyers that the tube is often mistakenly inserted in his windpipe or lung.
Amnesty International has received consistent reports that the nasal tubes are inserted without any anaesthetic. The hunger strikers are reported to regularly bleed and suffer from intense pain as a result of the insertion and removal of the tubes. The organization fears that the detainees may not be receiving adequate medical treatment for any injuries inflicted during force-feeding.
On 22 January 2009, President Barack Obama ordered the closure of the Guantánamo detention facility within a year. Among other things, the executive order requires the Secretary of Defense to undertake an immediate review of the conditions of detention at Guantánamo to ensure they comply with “all applicable laws governing the conditions of such confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.” The review is to be completed by 17 February 2009 and “any necessary corrections” implemented immediately thereafter. On 3 February, the Pentagon announced that US Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, would head the review. Amnesty International considers that the US authorities should also review the methods of force-feeding and should improve all conditions for detainees in Guantánamo pending closure of the prison camp to bring it into line with the USA’s international human rights obligations. To see USA: The promise of real change, click here. President Obama’s executive orders on detentions and interrogations, 30 January 2009, Amnesty International is campaigning for President Obama to take a number of steps on counter-terrorism in his first 100 days, click here for further information.