In recent weeks, the officials said, guards have begun strapping recalcitrant detainees into "restraint chairs," sometimes for hours a day, to feed them through tubes and prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward. Detainees who refuse to eat have also been placed in isolation for extended periods in what the officials said was an effort to keep them from being encouraged by other hunger strikers.Is it? It seems to me they quickly and effectively ended the hunger strike. What would have worked better? The alternative would have been death for these men. I don't see the argument that detainees are free to commit suicide.
The measures appear to have had drastic effects. The chief military spokesman at Guantánamo, Lt. Col. Jeremy M. Martin, said yesterday that the number of detainees on hunger strike had dropped to 4 from 84 at the end of December.
Some officials said the new actions reflected concern at Guantánamo and the Pentagon that the protests were becoming difficult to control and that the death of one or more prisoners could intensify international criticism of the detention center. Colonel Martin said force-feeding was carried out "in a humane and compassionate manner" and only when necessary to keep the prisoners alive. He said in a statement that "a restraint system to aid detainee feeding" was being used but refused to answer questions about the restraint chairs.
Lawyers who have visited clients in recent weeks criticized the latest measures, particularly the use of the restraint chair, as abusive.
"It is clear that the government has ended the hunger strike through the use of force and through the most brutal and inhumane types of treatment," said Thomas B. Wilner, a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling in Washington, who last week visited the six Kuwaiti detainees he represents. "It is a disgrace."
February 9, 2006
Forcefeeding Guantanamo hunger strikers: