On Wednesday Senators Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin submitted a letter to President Obama urging him to halt the force-feedings at Guantanamo Bay prison.
The senators referred to President Obama’s May 23 speech, in which he talked about the force feedings and asked, “Is this who we are?” Feinstein and Durbin wrote:
We therefore encourage you to direct the Department of Defense to stop conducting such large-scale force-feedings, and, where force-feeding is medically necessary to save a detainee’s life, to observe the protections required at U.S. Bureau of Prisons facilities. It is our understanding that the U.S. federal prison guidelines for force-feedings include several safeguards and oversight mechanisms that are not in place at Guantanamo Bay.
Those safeguards include requiring the warden to notify a judge of the involuntary
feeding, assessing the individual in determining how to administer the force-feeding, and videotaping all force-feedings conducted within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Feinstein detailed those safeguards in a June 19 letter she addressed to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel following her visit to the prison facility. Upon entering the U.S. prison system as an inmate, the handbook you receive states, “all people have a constitutional right to refuse any medical treatment, including ventilators and feeding tubes.” What that handbook and the senators don’t mention is the 1990 Supreme Court Case Washington v. Harper. That decision upheld that prison officials are entitled to override a prisoner’s objection to forcibly administered medication, with or without a determination that the prisoner is incompetent and therefore unable to decide for himself.
Wednesday marks the third day of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month observed by fasting from sun up to sun down. As in years past, the prison staff will feed those participating in the fast at night, including the 106 prisoners currently on hunger strike.