Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) is calling on the Pentagon to stop force-feeding detainees who are on a hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman said that she was opposed to force-feeding the detainees because the practice conflicts with international norms, medical ethics and the practices of the Bureau of Prisons.
“Hunger strikes are a long known form of non-violent protest aimed at bringing attention to a cause, rather than an attempt of suicide,” Feinstein wrote. “I believe that the current approach raises very important ethical questions and complicates the difficult situation regarding the continued indefinite detention at Guantánamo.”
More than 100 of the 166 detainees at Guantánamo are on a hunger strike as a protest to their indefinite detention.
Feinstein joined Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough at Guantánamo last week for a briefing on the hunger strikers and the broader security situation there.
Feinstein and McCain are two of the President Obama’s biggest allies in the Senate as Obama seeks to renew his efforts to close the detention facility and fulfill a promise he made in his first year in office.
The Pentagon has continued to force-feed the hunger strikers with the assistance of medical personnel amid criticism from the International Committee of the Red Cross, World Medical Association and Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Feinstein also cited the Bureau of Prisons, saying that her staff was told force-feeding was exceedingly rare, and no inmate had been force-fed in more than six months.
“When force-feedings do occur within the Bureau of Prisons, we have been told that nearly 95 percent of the time they are conducted with a fully compliant inmate requiring no restraints,” she wrote. “At Guantánamo Bay, on the other hand, all detainees being force-fed — regardless of their level of cooperation — are placed in chairs where they are forcibly restrained.”
She said that the Guantánamo force-feedings do not include several safeguards in place in the federal system, including the warden notifying a sentencing judge and a requirement that all force feedings are videotaped.