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Brutality at Guantánamo prison camp
Hunger strikers tortured

By Nicole Colson | October 28, 2005 | Page 1

FORCE-FEEDING of prisoners on hunger strike at the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are being used as a form of torture, says a lawyer for several detainees.

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Julia Tarver, a New York City-based lawyer who represents at least three hunger strikers, returned from an October 2 trip to Guantánamo with detailed information about the military's brutal use of force-feeding.

The Pentagon claims that "only" 25 of the camp's approximately 500 prisoners are on hunger strike--with 22 being force-fed. But legal advocates say the number is likely higher. In September, as many as 210 prisoners were on a hunger strike begun in early August to protest their lack of legal rights, indefinite detentions and the brutal conditions under which they are held.

Last month, military spokesman Major Jeffrey Weir explained to the New York Times that involuntary feedings were designed to ensure that prisoners could not "starve themselves to the point of causing harm to themselves." He insisted that the feedings were not "forced," but "assisted."

But in notes of interviews Tarver conducted with her clients--which she successfully fought to have declassified--prisoners described the feedings as a nightmarish punishment, with U.S. troops violently inserting dirty nasogastric (NG) tubes up detainees' noses and into their stomachs.

This resulted in prisoners "vomiting up substantial amounts of blood," says Tarver's notes. "When they vomited up blood, the soldiers mocked and cursed at them, and taunted them with statements like 'Look what your religion has brought you.'"

Tarver was told that "detainees were verbally abused and insulted and were restrained from head to toe. They had shackles or other restraints on their arms, legs, waist, chest, knees, and head...With these restraints in place, they were given intravenous medication (often quite painfully, as inexperienced medical professionals seemed incapable of locating appropriate veins). Their arms were swollen from multiple attempts to stick them with IV needles...If detainees moved, they were hit in the chest/heart."

According to what detainees told Tarver, "In front of Guantánamo physicians--including the head of the detainee hospital--the guards took NG tubes from one detainee, and with no sanitization whatsoever, reinserted it into the nose of a different detainee. When these tubes were reinserted, the detainees could see the blood and stomach bile from other detainees remaining on the tubes."

One of Tarver's clients, Abdul-Rahman Shalabi, told her, "One Navy doctor came and put the tube in his nose and down his throat and then just kept moving the tube up and down, until finally Abdul-Rahman started violently throwing up blood. Abdul-Rahman tried to resist the 'torture' from this physician, but he could not breathe."

Military officials claim detainees are being treated "humanely," but according to Abdul-Rahman, for many detainees, "After four years in captivity, life and death are the same."

As Barbara Olshansky of the Center of Constitutional Rights said in a statement, "Despite the very real possibility that some of these men may die, it is deeply life-affirming that so many of these detainees living in such dire circumstances are willing to risk their lives and bodies for the sake of basic democratic values that should be, and sadly are not, part of American policy today."

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