The brutal force-feeding process that Guantanamo detainees on hunger strike endure twice daily has been called torture. But as part of its defense in a series of recently unsealed legal documents, administrators say that at least inmates are able to watch TV and play video games during it. In a statement submitted for a lawsuit against the facility on April 17th, Colonel John V. Bogdan defended the program. Among other things, he said, a small group of long-term strikers who were compliant during feedings were given a soft chair instead of the normal restraining chair, after a policy change in late 2013. "The chair reclines, and the detainees may watch television or play video games while being enterally fed." Another statement defends the system by saying that compliant subjects can be fed "in a cushioned recliner chair while watching television."
Guantanamo officials have said that force-feeding by tube is necessary to stop detainees from dying, but a US judge has described the procedure as "painful, humiliating and degrading," though she recently allowed the facility to keep force-feeding Dhiab out of fear that he would die of starvation. Two feeding sessions take place every day, and the tube is usually removed between feedings, then reinserted. Documents describe the detainees attempting to delay the feeding by urinating or defecating on themselves, biting the tube in half, inducing vomiting, or attacking medical personnel. The lawsuit alleges abuses beyond the force-feeding itself, saying that staff deliberately ignored detainees' requests and laced the food with laxatives to cause diarrhea. While statements from Guantanamo say that leaving tubes in for long periods of time can cause infections, the suit accuses staff of ignoring the pain caused by frequently inserting and removing the tube. One inmate said he vomited blood after a tube was repeatedly inserted incorrectly.
The current force-feeding procedures began after a 2005 hunger strike. Officials justified restraining inmates in order to stop them from vomiting up food afterwards, but the implicit goal was to end the hunger strike by making it painful to continue. In mid-2013, over 100 of the camp's 166 inmates were said to be on a hunger strike, in part because of Obama's failure to close the facility. 45 were being force-fed. These unsealed documents are part of lawsuits by multiple detainees attempting to end what they say is an inhuman and tortuous system. Last month, in an unprecedented decision, a judge ordered staff to temporarily stop force-feeding inmate Abu Wa'el Dhiab, though that decision was later reversed. In a statement to Polygon, attorney Jon Eisenberg — who represents one of the prisoners — called the television and video game privileges "grotesque window dressing."