Drastic force-feeding measures push Gitmo hunger strike to lowest point

[JURIST] The number of detainees still on hunger strike [JURIST report] at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] has dropped to four, military officials said Wednesday. The head military spokesman at Guantanamo also said that prison officials have been using tougher force-feeding measures, including strapping prisoners into "restraint chairs" for extended periods of time to enable them to be fed through tubes and to prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward. Some hunger strikers have been placed in extended and uncomfortable isolation to deprive them of the support of other hunger strikers. Defense lawyers who have recently visited their clients at Guantanamo have criticized the new force-feeding measures as "brutal" and "inhumane." US military authorities refuted such criticism, saying they adopted the new methods after concluding that some of the hunger strikers were determined to commit suicide to protest their confinement. They emphatically denied that these were punitive measures designed to break the strike. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr. [official profile] has said that the Guantanamo hunger strikes present a moral question: whether officials should allow a person to commit suicide or take steps to protect their health and preserve their life. The World Medical Association [group website] opposes the forced feeding of hunger strikers [policy statement] as coercive.

Defense lawyers also say that the number of detainees protesting their confinement by skipping meals is much larger than those included in military numbers [AP report]. Detainees who skip less than nine consecutive meals to avoid being force-fed are not included in the military hunger strike count. The New York Times has more.

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