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Force-Feeding Is Torture, Gitmo Detainee Claims

(CN) - A Guantanamo Bay prisoner urged a federal judge to alter the "unconstitutional and inhumane" process of force-feeding detainees on hunger strike.

"Force-feeding at Guantánamo Bay is a painful, humiliating, and degrading process which violates international law and medical ethics," Emad Abdullah Hassan argued Tuesday in a motion for a preliminary injunction.

Hassan is a 34-year-old Yemeni national who has been held without charge since 2002.

He claims teams of soldiers take hunger-striking detainees to feeding sessions "by force and violence." They then pump fluids into the detainees in as little as 20 minutes through a 110-centimeter feeding tube, he says.

"Indeed, 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," according to the filing in Federal Court in Washington, D.C.

If a detainee vomits, the process is immediately repeated "with vomit still on the prisoner," and if he defecates, he's left "sitting under physical restraint in his own feces," Hassan claims.

"The Guantánamo detainees are being unnecessarily force-fed well before they are actually at risk of death or great bodily injury, and during the force-feeding they are being unnecessarily subjected to excessive forms of physical abuse," he adds.

Hassan stressed that he does not seek an injunction to continue his hunger strike until death, but rather wants a "constitutional protocol that ensures he is not force-fed prematurely and is not subjected to methods of force-feeding that cause unnecessary pain and suffering."

"All I want is what President [Barack] Obama promised -- my liberty, and fair treatment for others," he said in a statement. "I have been cleared for five years, and I have been force-fed for seven years. This is not a life worth living, it is a life of constant pain and suffering. While I do not want to die, it is surely my right to protest peacefully without being degraded and abused every day."

Hassan's petition comes on the heels of a D.C. Circuit ruling last month that cleared the path for Guantanamo detainees to challenge the force-feeding process.

The court noted that a "significant number of international organizations, medical associations, and public figures ... have criticized the practice of force-feeding prisoners unwilling to eat."

"Since oral argument in this case, a task force organized by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundation has issued a scathing report detailing the abuses of medical ethics in the government's treatment of detainees in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, concluding specifically that doctors who assist in the treatment of hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees 'have become agents of a coercive and counter-therapeutic procedure that for some detainees continued for months and years, resulting in untold pain, suffering, and tragedy for the detainees for whom they were medically responsible,'" Judge David Tatel wrote for the court.

Though the circuit expressed concern about the protocol, it refused to stop force-feedings altogether, saying "this is a court of law, not an arbiter of medical ethics."

The number of hunger-striking detainees reportedly peaked at 106 last July, but the Department of Defense stopped providing press with statistics in December.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon released a 24-page document developed in December that refers to hunger strikes as "long term non-religious fasting" and to force-feeding as "involuntary feeding/fluid hydration."

Such feeding is necessary when a detainee's "continued fasting will result in a threat to his life or seriously jeopardize his health," according to the document.

However, the government's apparent specifics on how much weight loss or how many missed meals would qualify a detainee for the force-feeding process are blacked out.

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