Courts & Crime

Judge demands answers on Guantanamo force-feeding

A federal judge has directed Guantanamo Bay authorities to answer some highly specific questions about the force-feeding of detainee Mohammed Abu Wa’el Dhiab.

In a five-page order dated Aug. 12, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler made public the questions she wants answered by Army Col. John Bogdan, the Gitmo commander, and by the facility’s previous and current medical directors.

Bogdan, for instance, must “explain why, in 2014, (he) forbade (Dhiab) from using a wheelchair for transport to his enteral feedings,” according to Kessler’s order.

The medical professionals must answer questions such as “whether you consider the insertion of

a nasogastric feeding tube to be a painful procedure” and whether they “consider it generally safe to keep a patient's nasogastric feeding tube in place for three days at a time.”

Dhiab is challenging the force-feeding program. According to Dhiab’s attorneys, with the human rights organization Reprieve, he’s been forcibly removed from his cell an average of three times a week over the past year in order to receive the force-feeding. Guantanamo authorities deploy what’s called a “Forcible Cell Extraction” team to detainees who appear resistant.

“This proceeding (is) an effort to lift the veil of secrecy from gratuitously abusive force-feeding practices and put a stop to them,” Dhiab’s attorneys wrote Aug. 6

During the feeding, guards restrain the detainees in chairs and medical technicians snake tubes through their nostrils and into their stomachs so that liquid nutrients may be forced in. The U.S. government refers to the practice as “enteral feedings.”

Dhiab says he turned to hunger striking because he had no other recourse. Imprisoned since 2002, Dhiab has long since been cleared for release once the United States finds another country to take him.

At its high point last year, more than 100 of Guantanamo’s detainees were participating in a hunger strike. The U.S. military officials who oversee the detention facility no longer publicly disclose how many force-feedings take place.