Fri, Mar 10, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Doctors want US to halt force feeding at Guantanamo Bay


More than 260 doctors from seven countries called on the US government to stop the force feeding of Guantanamo detainees, saying in an open letter the practice violates internationally agreed standards.

International agreements by the World Medical Association demanded that doctors in Guantanamo respect detainees' decision to stop eating, the group of doctors from the US, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands said.

The open letter was organized by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and was due to be published today in the medical journal the Lancet.

"From the reports of detainees' lawyers, we believe that the level of pain Guantanamo prisoners are put through in being force fed on restraint chairs is unnecessary," said Leonard Rubenstein, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights.

Some 500 prisoners are being held by the US government in Guantanamo as suspects in the war on terror, many of them for three years or more, without the bringing of charges.

Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohammed Bawazir from Yemen is currently challenging his force feeding in US courts, arguing it amounted to cruel and inhumane treatment.

Force feeding was started in January to stop a hunger strike that reached a peak of 131 prisoners in September last year, but had dropped to about 84 in the beginning of the year. Soon after force feeding started, the number of hunger strikers dropped to five.

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