Military Nurse Refused to Force-Feed Guantánamo Prisoners

Camp X-Ray, shown here under construction, is the temporary holding facility for detainees held at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Shane T. McCoy, USN, January 2002

Camp X-Ray, shown here under construction, is the temporary holding facility for detainees held at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Shane T. McCoy, USN, January 2002

A nurse refuses to partake in the force-feeding of Guantánamo prisoners.

Sarah Lazare writes at Common Dreams:

A nurse in the U.S. Navy has refused to participate in the force-feeding of hunger striking detainees in what is the first widely-reported act of defiance on ethical grounds by a U.S. military service member at this offshore prison.

“This is a historic stand by this nurse, who recognized the basic humanity of the detainees and the inhumanity of what he was being asked to do,” said Cori Crider, a lawyer for UK-based charity Reprieve—which refers to the refusal as ‘conscientious objection.’ Crider learned of the act of refusal in a July 10 phone call with Abu Wa’el Dhiab—a Syrian man currently detained in Guantánamo Bay—and the news broke to the media on Tuesday.

The unidentified nurse told Dhiab, “I have come to the decision that I refuse to participate in this criminal act,” according to a press statement from Reprieve. “Before we came here, we were told a different story,” the nurse added. “The story we were told was completely the opposite of what I saw.”

Journalist Carol Rosenberg received confirmation from Navy Capt. Tom Gresback that “there was a recent instance of a medical provider not willing to carry out the enteral feeding of a detainee.”

It is not clear what repurcussions await nurse, who is described by Dhiab as an approximately 40 year-old Latino man who may be a captain, according to Rosenberg. Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for the command that oversees Guantánamo, also confirmed the refusal to the Guardian, stating, “It’s being handled administratively.” Dhiab says he did not see the nurse again after his refusal to force-feed.

According to Dhiab, the Navy nurse is not alone: numerous other medical professionals have stated their ethical objections to the force feedings but express fear of retaliation and punishment if they refuse.

Maggie Martin, an organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, told Common Dreams, “People have been standing up as conscientious objectors throughout history including the current conflicts, but unfortunately I never heard those stories while I was in the military.”

She added, “It is heartening to see a service member refuse immoral orders.”

Read more here.

4 Comments on "Military Nurse Refused to Force-Feed Guantánamo Prisoners"

  1. Virtually Yours | Jul 17, 2014 at 4:45 pm |

    Let us hope that this courageous and conscientious act of objection creates some sort of ripple effect amongst the other nurses (fingers crossed…breath not held!) Still, the efforts of this honorable individual are to be applauded and commended 🙂

  2. oO(“This is a historic stand …”

    I’ve finally found another being, who puts a before historic, rather than an.)

  3. Woobniggurath | Jul 17, 2014 at 11:04 pm |

    RNs: Keeping doctors in check since the Crimean war.

  4. Remember the Nuremberg Trials after WWII, when some Nazis were hung for not refusing direct “illegal orders”? According to the Nurse’s Ethical Standard, the forced-feeding was wrong.

    So, how would this incident be any different from not following what you perceive to be an illegal (unethical) order? Ethics should always be a personal decision–and yours standard be higher and, perhaps even more honest, than your superiors.

    Let him work the two additional years and receive the full pension and benefits which he has truly earned. And thanks for standing-up for what is Right!

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