Washington May 03: Controversy over the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has intensified as United Nations experts condemned the force-feeding of hunger-striking inmates by the US, and a former White House lawyer claimed that drone strikes are being used an alternative to detaining Al Qaeda suspects.
With more than 100 inmates refusing food, four senior UN human rights experts and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called for an end to the indefinite detention of Guantanamo’s inmates and for their prosecution, transfer or immediate release.
Earlier this week, Barack Obama vowed to make good on a broken promise, made during the 2008 presidential race, to get rid of the prison in Cuba.
It currently holds 166 detainees despite more than half having been cleared for release. Among them is Shaker Aamer, a British citizen, who has been held for more than 11 years.
Obama is likely to need the Republicans’ support to close the base and rehouse the prisoners, because they control the House of Representatives.
The UN move came as John Bellinger, who worked for President Bush and drew up the first White House policy on lethal drone strikes, accused the Obama administration of over-reliance on the attacks because it realises imprisoning them in Guantanamo is too problematic.
Released in response to the deteriorating situation in the camp, the UN experts’ declaration points out that force-feeding hunger strikers is against international medical standards.
The declaration, released through UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, also condemned the policy of indefinite detention as “a flagrant violation of international human rights law which in itself constitutes a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment”.
It said: “According to the World Medical Assembly’s Declaration of Malta, in cases involving people on hunger strikes, the duty of medical personnel to act ethically and the principle of respect for individuals’ autonomy, among other principles, must be respected.
“Under these principles, it is unjustifiable to engage in forced feeding of individuals contrary to their informed and voluntary refusal of such a measure. Moreover, hunger strikers should be protected from all forms of coercion, even more so when this is done through force and in some cases through physical violence.