Testimonies of Forced Feeding
Emergency Restraint Chair
Photo: E.R.C. Inc.
There is testimony from military physicians regarding the involuntary and physically restrained feeding of Guantánamo prisoners. This testimony comes from the following sources:
- Testimony of Captain John Edmondson, Commander, Guantánamo Hospital, July 2003 - January 2006
- Testimony of the Officer-in-Charge of the Guantánamo Hospital, September 13, 2005
- Testimony of Captain Ronald Sollock, Commander, Guantánamo Hospital, January 2006 - July 2007
- Testimonies of the physician(s) signing forced-feeding forms, January 2006
- Testimony of Dr. S. Ward Casscells, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, August 2007
- Testimony of "Smo", the physician in charge of the Guantanamo Hospital, July 5, 2009
- Testimony of Daniel Lakebacher, January 13, 2010
- Testimony of Standard Operating Procedure 001 (Voluntary and Voluntary Total Fasting and Re-feeding)
The use of "restraint chairs" in the forced feeding of prisoners was first reported in The New York Times (see here). Subsequently it was confirmed by General Bantz Craddock, former commander of Guantánamo, and by Lt. Col. James Marshall, spokesman for the Southern Command (see here). Twenty five chairs like the one illustrated above were shipped to Guantánamo in December 2005 and January 2006. Restraint chairs began to be used systematically in Guantánamo in January 2006; they were still in use in August 2007 (see here). Other testimony of forced feeding (punitive and with physical restraints) can be found here and here. Standard Operating Procedures for force-feeding hunger striking prisoners in Guantánamo can be found here. On April 5, 2009, National Geographic aired footage of a prisoner being strapped at a "restraint chair".
It should be noted that physicians worldwide have reached a consensus regarding involuntary and physically restrained feeding of prisoners. Part of this consensus are:
Article 6 of The 1975 Tokyo Declaration of the World Medical Association: "Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially."
Article 21 of The 1991 Malta Declaration of the World Medical Association (as revised in 1992 and 2006): "Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. Equally unacceptable is the forced feeding of some detainees in order to intimidate or coerce other hunger strikers to stop fasting".
Conclusion to a Red Cross position paper on the medical and ethical aspects of hunger strikes in custody: “Doctors should never be party to actual coercive feeding, with prisoners being tied down and intravenous drips or oesophageal tubes being forced into them. Such actions can be considered a form of torture, and under no circumstances should doctors participate in them, on the pretext of “saving the hunger striker’s life”.
Citing the Tokyo Declaration, the American Medical Association stated in 2013 that "the forced feeding of detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession."
According to Guantánamo spokesman Navy Commander Rick Haupt, an undisclosed number of Guantánamo physicians have declined to participate in the forced-feeding of prisoners.