Friday, March 10, 2006

Press release about force-feeding.

I received this press release today.


The letter, published today in The Lancet medical journal, is signed by more than 250 distinguished medical experts from the UK, the USA, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Australia. Co-authors include Dr Oliver Sacks (author and neurologist), Dr Holly G Atkinson (President of Physicians for Human Rights) and Dr John Kalk (who oversaw hunger strikes in apartheid-era South Africa). A number of the experts are American medics, including from Harvard and Yale.

Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at the City Hospital in Birmingham, who coordinated The Lancet letter said:
“This letter really shows the strength of feeling amongst the world’s leading medical experts – they are saying with one voice that force-feeding of hunger strikers by medical staff at Guantánamo is unequivocally wrong.”

Local Brighton GP, Dr Christa Beesley said:
"As doctors we have an ethical duty to respect the human rights and dignity of our patients, whatever their circumstances or beliefs. Working in a multi-cultural town such as Brighton, I think that it is particularly important that I do not alter my standard of care based on a patient's background or religion. I was therefore happy to be a signatory on the letter to the Lancet."

The letter states that international medical-ethics standards forbid force-feeding of hunger strikers who make an informed decision to mount a hunger strike. It specifically condemns the actions of the former commander of the hospital at Guantánamo, Dr J S Edmondson, who instigated force-feedings at the prison camp.

The letter also attacks the use of “restraint chairs” to immobilise prisoners before forcibly inserting feeding pipes into detainees’ nasal passages. The letter calls on the US government to “ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians” and that “force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned forthwith in accordance with internationally agreed standards”.

One of the hunger strikers, Omar Deghayes, a long-term UK resident who has been detained for four years at the US prison camp, explained why they were taking such desperate action: "We are dying a slow death in here. And you have to remember that we have not been charged with any crime”.

Omar and other British residents detained in Guantánamo are the subject of a judicial review, challenging the British Government’s lack of action on their behalf. The challenge is led by lawyer Gareth Peirce and is to be held on the 22nd March, 10.30am, at the Royal Courts of Justice (Strand, London).

Jackie Chase from the Save Omar campaign said: “How can a civilised country tolerate the cruelty being meted out to these people? The force-feeding at Guantánamo amounts to torture and is yet another humiliation and abuse of detainees. Guantánamo Bay needs to be shut down and the British Government need to exert their influence to make it happen.”



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