There has been significant media coverage of the GTMO hunger strikes over the past few weeks, and the latest updates report that 10 detainees are currently being force-fed by GTMO officials. While official policy is to force-feed once a detainee’s weight drops low enough that it is a health risk and it is framed as a life-saving measure, force-feeding at GTMO is a decidedly unpleasant experience.
In a 2006 New York Times article, a former detainee describes the force-feeding process. He says,
“The head is immobilized by a strap so it can’t be moved, their hands are cuffed to the chair and the legs are shackled,” he continues to say,
“They ask, ‘Are you going to eat or not?’ and if not, they insert the tube. People have been urinating and defecating on themselves in these feedings and vomiting and bleeding. They ask to be allowed to go to the bathroom, but they will not let them go. They have sometimes put diapers on them.”
“The tube” this detainee refers to is the thick feeding tube used to administer cans of Ensure to detainees through their nose. Detainees describe this as an incredibly painful experience, with guards ignoring their protests and leaving them strapped into the feeding chair until they have ingested a sufficient amount of nutrition. The process is intentionally painful and humiliating, in hopes that it will encourage the detainee to discontinue his hunger strike, and occurs several times per day until the detainee voluntarily eats a meal.
Kelly Ann Taddonio, Research Fellow
Center for Policy & Research