A new video further exposes the brutality of the force-feedings of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo.
Twice a day, every day at the prison, over 40 of the more than 100 hunger strikers who are protesting their indefinite detention are strapped down and force-fed in a procedure widely denounced as torture.
The video by human rights charity Reprieve and director Asif Kapadia captures the horrifying cruelty of the Standard Operating Procedure for the force-feeding.
Yasiin Bey—the actor and rapper formerly known as Mos Def—undergoes the procedure in the video. He is shackled, strapped into chair, his head and hands belted back in restraints. A plastic tube is forced down his nostril, visibly causing pain. He is held down.
Bey begs for the force-feeding to stop and weeps.
Over 40 Guantanamo prisoners are subjected to this twice a day, an experience Reprieve reports can last two hours.
: Viewers may find the video very disturbing.
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Guantanamo prisoner Tariq Ba Odah—who’s been held at the prison for 11 years without trial—has been force-fed like this since 2007, says the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents him.
The video marks the launch of a campaign encouraging justice supporters to embark on a hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners.
“President Obama could take the steps needed to release cleared prisoners from Guantanamo any time he likes, but so far has lacked the political courage to do so,” stated Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director and attorney for Guantanamo prisoners. “We hope that public solidarity with the hunger-strikers in Guantanamo will persuade him to change his mind.”
Also, the Obama administration refused on Monday to give legally binding assurances that the Guantanamo prisoners would not be force-fed during daylight hours of the Muslim holiday of Ramandan, during which observers fast during the day. Reprieve reports that the U.S. Department of Justice said that the force-feeding at night is “an accommodation, not a right.” They merely have “plans” to execute the torturous procedure “absent any…operational issues” after sunset and before sunrise.
And if the prison officials do carry out the force-feedings of the dozens of prisoners in the limited hours between sunset and sunrise, lawyers with Reprieve have explained it would necessitate a “force-feeding factory.”
Scoffing at President Obama’s lawyers’ position that the detainees are “‘non-resident aliens [and] are not protected ‘persons’ within the meaning of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” lawyers for the prisoners noted that “it hardly advances international respect for American democracy when the Supreme Court treats corporations as ‘persons’ but the President insists that the Guantánamo Bay detainees are not.”
“If the Obama Administration is so sure they can feed these prisoners overnight, why won’t they agree to give it legal weight?” added Cori Crider, Guantanamo Counsel and Strategic Director at Reprieve. “The worrying conclusion is that prisoners’ rights during Ramadan will depend on the government’s largesse.”
“There is an easier way: Obama could stop this strike if he started freeing those prisoners who have been cleared for release by his own government,” said Crider.
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