ACLU Protests Force-Feeding Guantanamo Prisoners

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Agence France Presse

ACLU Protests Force-Feeding Guantanamo Prisoners

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File photo shows a detainee holding onto a fence as a US military guard walks within the grounds of the maximum security prison of Camp 5 at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote a letter to US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Friday protesting the "inhumane and unlawful practice" of force-feeding hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay prison.

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU) wrote a letter to US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Friday protesting the "inhumane and unlawful practice" of force-feeding
hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay prison.

"I
am writing to bring your attention to the cruel, inhuman, degrading and
unlawful treatment of the thirty hunger striking detainees currently
held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," wrote ACLU Human Rights
Program director Jamil Dakwar.

Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith
said there were 34 hunger strikers at the prison and that 25 of them
were being force-fed. The ACLU said it based its estimates on media
reports.

"Force-feeding is universally considered to be a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment," Dakwar wrote to Gates.

"We
respectfully and urgently request that you immediately order the prison
camp's commander to cease all force-feeding of detainees who are
capable of forming a rational judgment and are aware of the
consequences of refusing food."

Dawkar also cited various reports
that found that force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay amounted to torture and
violated several US Supreme Court holdings and international
agreements, including the Convention Against Torture ratified by the
United States in 1994.

Lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees
told AFP that force-fed prisoners were masked and strapped to a chair
twice a day and were force fed protein-rich liquids through tubes
inserted in their noses. The lawyers said the practice amounted to
torture.

"Debilitating risks of force-feeding include major
infections, pneumonia and collapsed lungs," said Dawkar, recalling that
five detainees have died in custody at the US naval base prison.

Smith
defended detainee care at Guantanamo Bay. "As always, our dedicated
medical staff provides superb health care to all detainees, and they
closely monitor the health of those detainees who choose to hunger
strike," she said.

She argued that the ratio of one medical staff
member for every two Guantanamo detainees "far exceeds US prison
standards" and shows the prison's commitment "to the safe and humane
care and custody of detainees in a legal, ethical and transparent
manner."

US president-elect Barack Obama has stated his intention
to shut down Guantanamo and Gates ordered aides last month to draw up
plans for closing the facility.

The prison was opened in January
2002 to hold alleged "enemy combatants" captured by US and allied
forces around the world during the so-called "war on terror."

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