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US won’t take action against Guantánamo nurse who refused to force-feed

US won’t punish Navy nurse who refused to use feeding tube on inmates on hunger strike to protest Guantánamo conditions

The Department of Defense has decided not to take action against a military nurse who refused to force-feed inmates on hunger strike over conditions at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, U.K.-based human rights watchdog Reprieve said Wednesday

The Navy nurse, whose name has not been publicly released and who is assigned to the Naval Health Clinic New England, had his voluntary six-month assignment at Guantánamo cut short after he refused to take part in the force-feedings in July 2014. 

The Navy told Al Jazeera in a statement Wednesday that "Navy personnel command determined that the officer would not be required to show cause for retention," meaning that he won't face the possibility of an administrative discharge that could have cost him the retirement benefits he has earned during his 18 years of service.

Ronald Meister, a lawyer for the Navy nurse, confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that his client will not be punished and said the nurse is "extremely relieved" and eager to resume his career. Meister also told the AP that his client's views on the practice of force-feeding changed after seeing the procedure done. 

"He continues to believe that involuntary force-feeding of competent adult patients is contrary to medical ethics," Meister said.

Cori Crider, an attorney at Reprieve, said the Department of Defense “has rightly dropped its case against the nurse who decided he could not ethically force-feed Guantánamo detainees." 

The military has defended force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners as humane and necessary to prevent inmates from starving to death, though military officials have acknowledged that subjects are sometimes restrained in their chairs to stop them from trying to remove feeding tubes. 

Human rights advocates have objected to the force-feeding procedure — which involves inserting feeding a tube through the nose and into the stomach — saying it violates personal liberty and medical ethics. Nongovernmental organizations and media groups have pushed for the public release of videotapes showing the force-feeding. 

A U.S. judge in October ordered the government to release public versions of 28 videos showing Syrian Guantánamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab being force-fed, but Barack Obama's administration appealed the ruling in December.

Military officials said that out of the hundreds of medical personnel who have worked at Guantánamo Bay, the nurse involved in this case was the only one to refuse to participate in the force-feeding procedure, the AP reported. 

"It took enormous courage for him to swim against the tide," Crider said. "I am certain he did the right thing. If the [force-feeding] tapes are ever made public, the American people will watch in horror at what we have asked this man — and many other young servicemen and -women — to do."

With The Associated Press

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