Harsh new methods have been used in a successful bid to break the inmate hunger strike at the Pentagon’s Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba. The methods reportedly included strapping detainees into “restraint chairs” for force-feeding, apparently to prevent the practice of deliberately regurgitating meals. Other strikers were placed in very cold air-conditioned cells, had “comfort” items like blankets removed and were placed in solitary confinement.
The largest known hunger strike at Guantanamo has now virtually ended, with the number of protesters in recent weeks falling from 84 to four. US authorities said they acted after concluding the men were trying to commit suicide, insisting the force-feeding tactics were “humane and compassionate.” Assistant secretary of defense Dr. William Winkerwerder said: “The objective in any circumstances is to protect and sustain a person’s life.”
But the new tactics were assailed by lawyers representing the men. “That’s what stopped the hunger strike,” said attorney Thomas Wilner. “They purposely force-fed these people to end the strike.”
The hunger strikers were apparently demanding their release from custody, claiming that they have no link to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The Guantanamo centre currently holds about 500 men. (UK Telegraph, Feb. 10)
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Washington DC has dismissed the main part of a lawsuit brought by four former Guantánamo detainees who were seeking damages from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other military officials. The four former detainees, all British citizens picked up in Pakistan and Afghanistan, charged in their October lawsuit that they had faced repeated beatings, death threats, interrogation at gunpoint, forced nakedness and menacing with unmuzzled dogs. Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled that the defendants had acted in their official government capacity and thus a longstanding legal doctrine made them immune from litigation. (NYT, Feb. 9)
See our last post on the ongoing torture scandal.