A rights lawyer and a U.S. official say a Navy nurse has refused to participate in force-feeding of prisoners who are on an extended hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay, the first known refusal of its kind.
Word of the refusal came last week in a call from prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab to attorney Cori Crider of the London-based legal defense group Reprieve. Dhiab, a hunger striker, described how a nurse in the Navy medical corps abruptly refused to “force-feed us” sometime before the Fourth of July — and disappeared from duty at the detention center.
Dhiab, a Syrian who was cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2010, has not been able to be repatriated because of the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Southern Command spokesman Army Col. Greg Julian confirmed the report to the Associated Press. He said it is the first time a Navy nurse has refused to tube-feed a hunger-striking prisoner. The male nurse in question is a lieutenant and has been assigned to other duties at Guantánamo.
An attorney for Reprieve said Tuesday in a phone interview from London that the nurse chose not to participate in the force-feeding after deciding the practice was criminal.
Military spokesman Navy Capt. Tom Gresback told The Miami Herald Monday night that the refusal to force-feed had “no impact to medical support operations at the base,” but he did not provide any further information.
Many of the detainees at Gitmo have been on hunger strike for varying lengths of time over the past 18 months, protesting their indefinite detention and alleged mistreatment by the staff.
Dhiab filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the force-feeding policy. In May a U.S. district judge ordered Guantánamo Bay officials to turn over more than 100 secret videos that show Dhiab being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed.
An exclusive Al Jazeera report in May 2013 found that hunger-striking Guantánamo prisoners who are force-fed undergo a medical procedure that requires them to be restrained in chairs and have long tubes inserted through their nostrils. The prisoners remain this way for two hours or as long as it takes for medical personnel to confirm that nutritional supplements have reached their stomachs.
The U.N. last year called the force-feedings at Guantánamo a breach of international law.