UN: Force Feeding Gitmo Hunger Strikers Violates International Law

800px-Captive_being_escorted_for_medical_care,_December_2007

President Obama this week defended the US’s policy of force feeding detainees in Guantanamo Bay who are protesting their due process-free indefinite detention by going on a hunger strike.

On Wednesday, UN human rights officials declared that force feeding amounts to torture, saying “it is unjustifiable to engage in forced feeding of individuals contrary to their informed and voluntary refusal of such a measure.”

…[A]ccording to the World Medical Assembly’s Declaration of Malta, in cases involving people on hunger strikes, the duty of medical personnel to act ethically and the principle of respect for individuals’ autonomy, among other principles, must be respected. Under these principles, it is unjustifiable to engage in forced feeding of individuals contrary to their informed and voluntary refusal of such a measure. Moreover, hunger strikers should be protected from all forms of coercion, even more so when this is done through force and in some cases through physical violence. Health care personnel may not apply undue pressure of any sort on individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike. Nor is it acceptable to use threats of forced feeding or other types of physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have voluntarily decided to go on a hunger strike.

They also called for an immediate end to the indefinite detention without charge or trial of 166 prisoners at Gitmo, warning “the continuing and indefinite detention of individuals without the right to due process is arbitrary and constitutes a clear violation of international law. This situation is particularly clear with respect to those prisoners—at least 86—who have been cleared for transfer by the Government of the United States of America,” but have been denied their freedom still.