Photos from Guantanamo’s force-feeding facilities

May 10, 2013

Feeding chair and enteral nourishment preparation inside the Joint Medical Group where the detainees receive medical care, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 10, 2013. (All photos by Army Sgt. Brian Godette)

It's about three months into an ongoing Guantanamo Bay hunger strike, which began with a few detainees protesting guards' alleged mishandling of Korans and has escalated to a larger and nearly camp-wide demonstration against the Obama administration’s failure to close the facility as promised or to free detainees it has cleared for release.

Now, as attention on the hunger strike mounts, a U.S. Army public affairs unit has released photos from the camp that show hints of the hunger strike as well as the guards' regimen for force-feeding.

Some of those photos, taken by Sgt. Brian Godette in early April, are posted here. They show, among other things, guards discarding meals refused by detainees, a special chair used for force-feeding and a rare glimpse of a detainee, if only his hand.


Feeding chair and eteral nourishment preparation inside the Joint Medical Group.

Here's how the force-feedings actually happen, as reported by The Washington Post's Peter Finn and Julie Tate:

Twice a day at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, guards take a number of detainees from their cells, one at a time, to a camp clinic or a private room on their block.

The detainees are offered a hot meal or a liquid nutritional supplement and, if they refuse, they are strapped into a chair. A nurse then passes a tube through their noses and down into their stomachs; for one to two hours, they are fed a drip of Ensure while a Navy corpsman watches.


Overnight medical stay area inside the Joint Medical Group.

Overnight medical stay area.

One of the hunger-striking detainees described the experience first-hand for a New York Times op-ed:

I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.

I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.


Guards unload food items delivered to Guantanamo Bay Detention Camps V and VI to prepare for breakfast disbursement to detainees. Dated boxes and marked containers designate items and freshness.

Guards wheel in food to prepare for breakfast disbursement to detainees.

A guard distributes lunch to a detainee through a cell door slot in Camp V.

President Obama acknowledged the force-feedings at a recent news conference. When a reporter asked him why the detainees are being force-fed, Obama responded, “Well, I don’t – I don’t want these individuals to die. Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can.”

The hunger-strikers, Finn and Tate write, “have forced the largely forgotten issue of their indefinite detention back on to Washington’s agenda.” The political, legal and diplomatic hurdles, which I wrote about previously, seem just as daunting as they were when the Obama administration first tried and failed to close the facility, but not quite insurmountable.


A guard discards a breakfast that was refused by a detainee.

Detainees' religious rights are respected throughout the camps as well as inside the Joint Medical Group, military officials say.
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