Medics arrive to help with Gitmo hunger strike
MIAMI — About 40 additional U.S. Navy medical forces have arrived at the prison camps at Guantanamo to assist in the growing hunger strike by 100 captives, more than a fifth of them being force-fed, a spokesman said Monday.
The “corpsmen, nurses, and other specialists” arrived over the weekend “as part of a contingency during the ongoing hunger strike,” Army Lt. Col. Samuel House said in a statement.
House reported that five of the hunger strikers were at the prison camps hospital, although none had life-threatening conditions.
“The influx of personnel was planned several weeks ago as increasing numbers of detainees chose to protest their detention,” he added.
House issued the statement just before noon Monday, saying “currently only a handful of detainees are being tube-fed.” He sought to distinguish between those designated for forced-feedings and those actually strapped to a feeding chair to have a tube snaked up the nose and into the stomach to pump in a can of Ensure or a similar nutritional supplement up to twice daily.
Captives are moved in shackles from their cell to a separate forced-feeding site, House said in a statement where “most of the detainees who are approved for tube feeding will eat or drink without the peer pressure from inside the cellblock.”
The Navy reinforcements arrived as International Red Cross delegates were inspecting conditions at the Guantanamo prison camps and an attorney for one of the detainees accused U.S. military medical forces of using an unnecessarily large feeding tube on his Kuwaiti captive client.
Fayiz al-Kandari, 35, has been tube-fed for a week, federal public defender Carlos Warner said Monday, citing both a telephone conversation with his client and a notice from the Justice Department.
Kandari complained that the military is “using a Size 10 tube instead of Size 8,” which the captive claims “makes it hard to breathe” because it’s “too big and induces vomiting,” Warner said.
House, the prison spokesman, said “there is no ‘standard’” size of tube used in a nasogastric feeding at Guantanamo.
“Each detainee is treated based on the recommendation of the doctor,” the lieutenant colonel said.
Five Red Cross delegates arrived Friday and began work on Saturday, according to ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno on “an ad-hoc assessment visit” now that the majority of captives are in single-cell lockdown.
One delegate is a physician, he said, declining to identify the nationalities of any of the team members.
It’s the organization’s 93rd visit since the prison camps opened in 2002. Schorno said the goal was “to assess the immediate aftermath of that transfer and to monitor the current conditions of detention and treatment there,” in light of the lockdown.
“As always, the ICRC will address its findings confidentially and with U.S. authorities only,” he said.