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For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights Criticizes Court Decision to Allow Force-Feeding

Media Contact

Vesna Jaksic Lowe, MS

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

New York, NY - 02/11/2014

A federal court today declined to stop force-feeding of Guantánamo detainees, allowing the inhuman and degrading practice to continue.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to issue a preliminary injunction to halt force-feeding, a type of intervention that violates core medical ethics and constitutes ill-treatment.

“The rights of men being held in Guantánamo are being completely ignored, and the hunger strike is the only option they have left to protest their indefinite detention, which has lasted more than 11 years without charges for some of them,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “By allowing the cruel and degrading practice of force-feeding to continue, the court has essentially authorized the continuation of an abusive tactic that violates human rights and fundamental medical ethics.”

The detainees being forced-fed are being held in indefinite detention, which is in itself a violation of human rights. A preliminary injunction would have at least stopped force-feeding, which constitutes ill-treatment and could rise to the level of torture. A call for injunctive relief for ill-treatment or torture should be granted under both international standards and the 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

While the court did not immediately stop force-feeding by issuing an injunction, two of the three judges said the detainees did have a right to challenge the practice in court, paving the way for a continuing legal battle over the issue. The judges also pointed that that “force-feeding is a painful and invasive process that raises serious ethical concerns.” The legal challenge was filed on behalf of three detainees.

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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