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Pentagon defends force-feeding at Guantanamo

[JURIST] Pentagon officials said Friday that the force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees [JURIST news archive] at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] would continue despite opposition from doctors who signed an open letter [PDF] published in the British medical journal Lancet [journal website] earlier this week. The letter, endorsed by 263 doctors from seven countries [JURIST report], called for the US to halt force-feeding by stomach tubes and the use of restraint chairs for prisoners, and called for an independent medical evaluation of the situation. The letter also noted that the World Medical Association [profession website] specifically bans the use of force-feeding in declarations to which the American Medical Association [group website] is a party.

The Pentagon says there are 6 detainees currently on a hunger strike, including 3 being tube-fed, down from a peak of about 130 hunger strikers in September 2005. The Pentagon also challenges the jurisdiction of the WMA to condemn the practice, noting: "Professional organization declarations by doctors, lawyers, dentists, etc. are not international treaties, therefore are nonbinding and not applicable to sovereign nation-states." Reuters has more.

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