Not a Parody...Detainees Complain of Not Being Force-Fed During Hunger Strikes

FILE – In this June 27, 2006 file photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)


As a young, semi-high child in a famous viral video once asked after being sedated at the dentist, “Is this real life?”

Given the happenings of the past two years, asking that question is probably redundant but even this story is hard to believe at first.

Per the New York Times, detainees at Guantanamo Bay are complaining (via their lawyers) that they are not being force-fed as rigorously while protesting with hunger strikes.

David Remes, who represents another hunger striker, said his client had been on such a strike since August but had not been tube-fed despite losing significant weight. The client also told him that other protesters were no longer being force-fed.

Another prisoner on a lengthy hunger strike — who was hospitalized in July, though he eats a small amount of solid food each day to accompany pain medication — told his lawyer on Sept. 21 that a prison official told him a day earlier that he would not be forcibly tube-fed, either, according to the lawyer, Pardiss Kebriaei of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

What’s going on here is simple.

The military are not going to let these people die. What they are doing is refusing to play the prisoner’s game anymore. Typically, after a certain weight loss of a fairly conservative number, these detainees are fore-fed via feeding tube. That means that the detainees usually get to “protest” while never actually having to go hungry. What the military has decided to do now is to only intervene when medically necessary. That means many more days of detainees having to actually suffer for their cause.


The Pentagon clarifies in the statement below.

“In some instances in the past, attempts to provide detainees who claimed that they were on hunger strike with a measure of dignity through voluntary enteral feedings unintentionally created a situation that potentially encouraged future hunger strikes,” he said. “As a result, the pre-existing standard of medical necessity will be enforced in the future.”

But Mr. Remes interpreted the move as a new strategy to induce hunger strikers to stop. He accused the military of “playing chicken” by withholding both force-feeding and medical care until the detainee was in danger of organ damage or even death.

Well, no crap Mr. Remes. Isn’t that what a hunger strike is for? Maybe try advising your clients to eat their meals. Just a thought.

Then there’s this shot of irony.

Any such hardening of the government’s approach could put the prisoners’ lawyers in an awkward position. Though they say they do not want their clients to die, many have also argued that force-feeding amounts to torture and violates medical ethics. For now, the three lawyers said they are seeking independent medical evaluations of their clients.

Yes, you read that right.

In the past, force-feeding has been argued by these same lawyers as torture. Now that the military is backing off, they are accusing them of human rights abuses for not force-feeding them until it becomes medically necessary.


I tend to believe these men should be given trials at this point and process should move past where it is now. Still, when you are captured as a prisoner of war for an entity that continues to fight on, that complicates matters. That’s why the prison at Guantanamo has remained open this long. Those left at this point are men who have high risk levels as former President Obama cleaned just about everyone else out (only for some to return to killing Americans).

From a legal standpoint, I’m not sure there’s a right to be force-fed when you refuse to eat in prison, whether we are talking domestically or in a military prison. It certainly strains credibility that these lawyers would argue force-feeding is torture while at the same time arguing the prisoners have to be force-fed.

But, hey. It’s 2017. Enjoy the show.


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