Outrage as US government insists on force feeding Guantanamo detainees during Ramadan
The US government sparked outrage and fury on Wednesday when it was revealed that they will refuse to refrain from force feeding detainees at Guantanamo Bay during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
These revelations were disclosed in court papers which rejected a petition from four detainees who were refusing food. Shaker Aamer, Ahmed Belbacha, Nabil Hadjarab and Abu Wa’el Dhiab filed the lawsuit, arguing that the feedings were violating the Ramadan fasting.
The US government stated that the forced feedings were providing the detainees with “essential nutritional and medical care” and claimed that although these feedings would still take place, they would not interfere with the holy month of Ramadan which begins on Monday 8th July. Lawyers for president Obama have said that “the public interest lies with maintaining the status quo”.
During the holy month of Ramadan, devout Muslims will fast from sunrise until sunset. The US government has stated that the feeding of the detainees will occur before sunrise and after sunset to coincide with these religious values.
Director of public affairs for the US south command, Colonel Greg Julian, stated: “We do not force feed observant Muslims during daylight hours during Ramadan. These policies have been in place for years, and are consistent with our mission to safely detain while supporting the religious practices of those in US custody. If told to do differently, we will do so.”
However, lawyers speaking for the detainees referred to the forced feedings, which occur via a neogastric tube, as “barbaric” and criticized the lack of a complete guarantee that prisoners will not be force fed during the day.
According to the court papers presented, 106 of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo are on a hunger strike, with 45 of them being force fed through tubes which go directly to their stomach.
The counsel for the men and strategy director at human rights organisation Reprieve, Cori Crider, argued: “These are more weasel words from the Obama administration, they say they have ‘no plans’ to force feed during the day in Ramadan, but give no guarantees. Meanwhile, on the eve of independence day, they ride rough shod over the fundamental right of people to choose what goes into their bodies.”
This debate has drawn attention to many already controversial issues and hugely highlighted the failure of Obama to close the camp despite the campaign pledge that he made to do so as far back as 2008.