Joe Nocera for The New York Times: Is Force-Feeding Torture?

May 31st, 2013

The New York Times
by Joe Nocera
May 31, 2013

Nearly four months into a hunger strike that has now spread to some two-thirds of the detainees at the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the question in this headline can no longer be avoided.

Fundamentally, hunger strikes are a form of speech for prisoners who have no other way to communicate their concerns. Hunger strikes give them the means to protest their confinement and to send a message about that confinement. During the “troubles” in Ireland, for instance, Irish Republican Army prisoners went on hunger strikes to protest their detention by the British — and some ended up being force-fed.

For decades, the international community, including the International Red Cross, the World Medical Association and the United Nations, have recognized the right of prisoners of sound mind to go on a hunger strike. Force-feeding has been labeled a violation on the ban of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The World Medical Association holds that it is unethical for a doctor to participate in force-feeding. Put simply, force-feeding violates international law.

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