Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California called on the military to stop force-feeding the hunger strikers at the prison at Guantanamo Bay on Wednesday, saying that the policy is “in conflict with international norms.”
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Feinstein pointed out that hunger strikes are a widely recognized “form of non-violent protest,” and that the procedures in place at the island military prison are not in line with either international standards or U.S. prison practices. She ended by asking Secretary Hagel to “reevaluate the force-feeding policies” and to implement “the most humane policies possible.”
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the letter when asked by reporters.
104 prisoners out of 166 are currently labeled as hunger strikers, and 44 of those are being force-fed through tubes inserted through their noses. In the letter, Feinstein pointed out that prisoners are forcibly restrained when they are fed, “regardless of their level of cooperation.” Some prisoners have been on hunger strike since the beginning of February, and statements by the prisoners have described an excruciating, humiliating process.
Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article calling Guantanamo Bay a “medical ethics-free zone” and condemning the force-feeding. It also called on military physicians to “refuse to participate in any act that unambiguously violates medical ethics.”
Senator Feinstein traveled to Guantanamo with Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona on June 7 with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to inspect conditions at the facility. They released a statement when they returned in which they supported transferring the prisoners and closing the prison there.