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For Immediate Release

Force Feeding Violates Medical Ethics, Points to Need to Close Guantánamo

Media Contact

Vesna Jaksic Lowe, MS

Media Relations Manager, New York
Tel: 917-679-0110

New York, NY - 05/03/2013

As the hunger strike continues at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, PHR stressed the need for the Obama administration to immediately stop the unethical force feeding of detainees on hunger strikes.

President Obama recently reiterated his call from 2008 to close the facility, where some of the detainees have been engaged in a hunger strike as a form of protest against the inhumane conditions and indefinite detention. While PHR welcomed the president’s announcement, it emphasized the need to fulfill this long-standing promise, as well as to immediately stop force feeding of some of the hunger strikers and address the conditions that have led to the hunger strike in the first place.

“Force feeding clearly violates medical standards, and constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment,” said Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “The hunger strike and force feeding are the latest examples to illuminate the dire situation and ongoing abuse at Guantánamo Bay. While there is no question this deplorable detention facility must be shut down, force feeding of detainees needs to be stopped immediately. It is crucially important that people’s rights to make decisions about their own health be respected.”

As of early May, 100 of the 166 detainees were said to be on the hunger strike, with 23 of them being force fed. The American Medical Association has spoken out on the issue, recently pointing out that force feeding “violates core ethical values of the medical profession.” (pdf) The World Medical Association has also concluded that force feeding is ethically unacceptable and constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment.

PHR is recommending the following steps with regard to Guantánamo Bay:

  • President Obama should end force feeding immediately and institute policies consistent with the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers
  • Allow independent medical personnel to visit detainees and provide medical support to hunger strikers
  • Safely relocate detainees who have been cleared for release
  • Close the detention facility

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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