Doctor says US Guantanamo practices ill-advised
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government is applying ill-advised procedures as a form of punishment for hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay prison, a medical doctor told a federal court Tuesday.
The assessment by Dr. Steven Miles came at a hearing where lawyers for Abu Wa’el Dhiab are seeking to improve the conditions of confinement that Dhiab faces at the hands of his jailers.
Lawyers for the Justice Department told the court that the military only feeds prisoners against their will to keep them alive and follows all laws when it does so.
A Syrian prisoner, Dhiab has been held without charge at Guantanamo since August 2002. The U.S. military forcibly removes Dhiab from his cell, straps him on a restraining chair and force feeds him. Dhiab is challenging the procedures as abusive. Dhiab has told his lawyers that he has been forcibly removed from his cell over 1,300 times since being brought to Guantanamo Bay.
The government refuses to say how many other Guantanamo Bay detainees go on hunger strikes.
In a court appearance before U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, Miles criticized the practice of inserting a feeding tube twice-daily through the nose and into the stomachs of prisoners who refuse to eat. He said he had never dreamed of changing feeding tubes with such frequency because doing so can lead to serious medical complications.
Miles, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, also criticized the use of olive oil on feeding tubes, saying that all the medical literature on the subject says that water-soluble lubricants should be used to avoid medical problems.
Miles objected to the forcible removal of detainees from their cells, the first step in transporting prisoners to the prison area used for force-feeding.
Miles called forcible cell extraction “a form of punishment” applied when detainees go on hunger strikes.
Miles was the third of three doctors who spoke on behalf of Dhiab’s behalf in the hearing which began Monday. The others were retired Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, who is a psychiatrist, and Sondra Crosby, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University.
Dhiab’s medical records state that Dhiab has been complaining during his years of captivity about pain on the right side of his body so painful that it makes it difficult to use his right leg.
According to the medical records, at one point prison personnel ordered the removal of a back brace and other pain-relieving items that the prisoner has been using.
In her court appearance Monday, Crosby, who examined Dhiab recently, said she cannot think what purpose would be served by removing the back brace and other items from the prisoner.
Last Friday, Kessler ordered the public release of 28 videotapes of Dhiab being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed.
The videotapes will remain sealed until some information on them is redacted. The material to be removed includes identifying information for everyone on the tapes except for the prisoner. Faces other than Dhiab’s will be obscured, as will voices and names.
The hearing, which began Monday morning, is scheduled to finish on Wednesday. So far, about two hours of the hearing have been behind closed doors.