An anti-torture activist underwent a nasal-tube feeding outside an appeals court in Washington DC to protest the abusive force-feeding of hunger strikers at and the practice of indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay.
The feeding took place shortly after the US Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit began considering a lawsuit arguing that force-feeding at Guantánamo is a violation of human rights and religious liberties.
The activist who underwent the procedure, Andrés Thomas Conteris, is currently on day 103 of a water-only fast to bring public attention to the plight of prisoners at Guantanamo.
Conteris, who has so far lost 57 pounds, told the Voice of Russia that the nasal tube feeding is akin to torture.
“They are tortured because they do not give their consent. And without giving consent I would call this, if it were a sexual kind of analogy, it would be rape. And am I calling the Pentagon rapists? No! I’m calling them serial rapists,” he said.
Conteris characterized enteral feeding as the most painful experience of his life.
“When the tube is gone in, at times it has blocked my capacity to breath. It felt like constant agony and it is fire in your throat. It is a burning sensation. And every time you try to speak, if the tube is put very near the vocal cords, which sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t, every word you speak is agony. And every time you swallow it is absolutely excruciating.”
Conteris is no stranger to the procedure, having previously undergone nasogastric intubation outside the White House, in Oakland, California, and at US embassies in South America.
The protest is reminiscent of a graphic video featuring US actor and rapper Yasiin Bey, otherwise known as Mos Def, who agreed to experience the procedure in a four-minute film released in July.
Protesting alleged maltreatment treatment at the camp, the prisoners began a hunger strike in February that quickly snowballed into a broader demonstration against indefinite detention. At its height in August, over 100 prisoners were taking place in the strike, which guards have recently been accused of breaking up with a deliberate campaign to “crush detainees’ spirits.”
While the US military recently announced the end of the six-month hunger strike, human rights groups say at least 16 inmates are still being force-fed daily – two of whom are in hospital.
Meanwhile, two judges on a three-judge panel seemed unconvinced by government lawyer claims that the judiciary has no jurisdiction over conditions at a military prison such as the US Navy base in Cuba.
Although the judges would not go so far as to characterize enteral feed torture, they pronounced that Guantanamo detainees might be able to circumvent a 2006 law forbidding them from suing over living conditions or treatment, which could include torture.
It could take up to several months for a decision in the case is
to be reached, although the judge’s skepticism indicated the
latest challenge to the Obama administration’s control over the
treatment of detainees at Guantanamo.