IN THE CAMPS

U.S. now calls Guantánamo hunger strike ‘long term non-religious fasting’

 
WEB VOTE The Defense Department has redefined the year-long hunger strike at Guantánamo as “long term non-religious fasting.” Good idea?


crosenberg@MiamiHerald.com

The Guantánamo Bay prison has adopted a new forced-feeding policy that rhetorically recasts the year-long hunger strike in the remote prison camps as “long term non-religious fasting.”

The Pentagon disclosed the rebranding effort Tuesday with the release of a 24-page how-to document developed by the prison camps in December. It blacks out specifics that apparently define how much weight loss and how many missed meals qualify a hunger-striking captive for the prison's twice-daily tube feedings.

In it, the U.S. military at Guantánamo appears to be distinguishing between bona fide Muslim fasts and the protest that started more than a year ago and, at its height, drew the participation of more than 100 prisoners.

The document is called “Medical Management of Detainees with Weight Loss,” and replaced a guide written in March 2013 called “Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike.”

Some prison spokesmen have argued that the captives were manipulating their weight loss to qualify as hunger strikers — and to focus attention on their indefinite detention at the prison. About half of Guantánamo’s 155 prisoners are approved for release once the Obama administration reaches resettlement or repatriation agreements with nations that agree to take them.

The new document, dated Dec. 16, 2013, describes the health challenge that caused the military to send in additional medics last year as “weight loss,” and calls forced-feedings “involuntary enteral feedings.” With the reinforcements still there, the prison now has a nearly 1-to-1 ratio of U.S. Navy medical staff to captives.

The document appears to include a medical calculus for how much to force-feed a morbidly obese hunger striker.

It also includes this instruction: “If the RN [nurse] or HM [medic] feels they are in any danger of personal harm during an enteral feed, they are to withdraw from the situation and immediately inform the guards of their concerns.”

More than 100 prisoners were on hunger strike over the summer, with the prison handling an all-time high of 46 captives getting tube feedings in July, a time when the military issued daily figures.

Hunger strike participation dropped to as low as 11 in mid-November, by the military’s count. It had risen to 15 on Dec. 2, when the prison abruptly declared a blackout on hunger-strike transparency after nine months of daily disclosures.

Asked via email Tuesday how many of the 155 captives are considered to be “non-religious fasters” and how many are receiving “enteral feedings,” spokesman Cmdr. John Filostrat replied, “Our policy at JTF-GTMO [Joint Task Force-Guantánamo] is to not publicly issue the number of detainees who choose not to eat as a matter of protest.”

At the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, the Pentagon outpost with oversight of the prison, Marine Gen. John Kelly had openly derided the protest as “hunger strike lite,” and differed with President Barack Obama's description of his troops as “force-feeding” prisoners.

The new terminology more closely aligns with the general's language of choice on the long-running protest by an undisclosed number of captives receiving prison-mandated tube feedings.

The Miami Herald obtained the document from the Department of Defense Monday after the Department of Justice released a redacted version in ongoing hunger-strike related litigation.

At the Pentagon, however, spokesman Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale had yet to adopt the new lingo by Tuesday evening. “I'm unaware of any policy shift in how we term the hunger striking detainees.”

In other Guantánamo news Tuesday:

• Lawyers for a 34-year-old Yemeni detainee, Emad Abdullah Hassan, filed a new challenge in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to the prison’s force-feeding practices.

The lawyers did not argue that the man should be allowed to starve to death. Rather they challenged the methods used by the military at Guantánamo, where medics claim they treat their charges with care and dignity.

“Fluids are sometimes forced through detainees’ feeding tubes at such an extreme rate —nearly two-thirds of a gallon in as little as 20 minutes — as to constitute a form of the “Water Cure” torture, which dates back to the Middle Ages,” Hassan’s lawyers wrote in their 35-page filing.

A Justice Department spokeswoman told the Associated Press that government lawyers were reviewing the filing.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Algerian Djamel Ameziane, a 42-year-old ethnic Berber, has been approved for release but wants to go to Canada, or another country, rather than the nation he fled in 1992. His lawyers have chosen Canada because he lived there for five years, and filed a failed application for political asylum. From Canada he went to Afghanistan, where he was captured in the U.S. invasion.

    IN THE COURTS

    Ex-Guantánamo detainee can’t get his money back

    Federal judge concludes a former Guantánamo detainee may no longer be a threat, but his money is.

  •  
The Kremlin.

    Russia bans congressman, 12 other Americans

    Russia has placed a U.S. lawmaker and 12 other people connected with the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq on its list of those banned from entering the country.

  •  
In this image from video, Eugene R. Fidell, the lawyer representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in an interview with The Associated Press that his client has been vilified by some people, but the public should not leap to conclusions before the Army finishes its investigation into how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban.

    Bergdahl hires lawyer for military investigation

    The lawyer representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Wednesday that his client has been vilified by some people, but the public should not leap to conclusions before the Army finishes its investigation into how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category