Navy Nurse Refuses to Force-Feed Gitmo Prisoners on Hunger Strike

A Navy nurse at the prison at Guantánamo Bay has refused to comply with orders to force-feed detainees on hunger strike, citing ethical objections to the practice. The male medical officer is the first known member of the U.S. Navy to defy the Pentagon's policy.

"There was a recent instance of a medical provider not willing to carry out the enteral feeding of a detainee," Navy Capt. Tom Gresback told the Miami Herald by email. "The matter is in the hands of the individual's leadership." More from the Herald:

Word of the refusal reached the outside world last week in a call from prisoner Abu Wael 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 detention center duty.

Crider called the male nurse the first known U.S. military conscience objector of the 18-month-long hunger strike in the prison camps, and said his dissent took "real courage ... none of us should underestimate how hard that has been."

Dhiab, 43, is challenging Guantánamo force-feeding policy in federal court. A Syrian who was cleared for transfer from Guantánamo in 2010 but who can't be repatriated because of unrest in his homeland, has been an on-again, off-again hunger striker to protest his indefinite detention.

Gresback refused to identify the number of Guantánamo's 149 prisoners currently on hunger strike, saying that it is “policy to not address the number of detainees who choose to engage in non-religious fasting or those who would require enteral feeding.”

According to retired Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist against force-feeding prisoners, the nurse is unlikely to be punished, telling the Miami Herald, "They have said to us directly that if a provider objects for ethical reasons or other reasons they would not be ordered to participate—and they would not suffer any adverse consequences."

[Image via AP]