Force Feeding Is Torture: Just Ask Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def) (Video)

Yasiin Bey, the rapper-actor-political activist formerly known as Mos Def, has added his voice to the rising chorus of people protesting the brutal force feeding of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Today, 120 prisoners are on hunger strike, many since late February. Every day, forty-four to forty-six are force fed.

In order to illustrate and help publicize the pain and humiliation involved in this process, Bey volunteered to subject himself to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) involved in force feeding. The video below shows this experience. The video was made by Reprieve, a human rights organization based in the United Kingdom which has represented dozens of Guantanamo prisoners, and was directed by the Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia.

What Bey endures is brutal, as you can see for yourself. But the full treatment in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedure manual is even more brutal. When a force feeding order is given, a guard shackles the prisoner and places a mask over his mouth to prevent spitting and biting. A feeding tube is inserted through his nose. Medics use a stethoscope and a test dose of water to check that the tube has descended all the way to his stomach. When the tube has been secured with tape, “the enteral nutrition and water that has been ordered is started, and flow rate is adjusted according to detainee’s condition and tolerance.” The feeding can be completed in twenty to thirty minutes but might take up to two hours. After the “nutrient infusion” is completed, he is placed in a “dry cell” and observed for up to sixty minutes for any “indications of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting.” If he vomits, he can be put through the whole process again.

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Sexual Torture is Systematic: from Mubarak and SCAF to the Muslim Brotherhood (Video) by Mosireen

This video from the Mosireen media collective is entitled “Sexual Torture is Systematic: from Mubarak and SCAF to the Muslim Brotherhood.” It brings together the testimonies of Egyptians who have survived sexual torture over the past decade, and who refuse to be silenced by their torturers. The video highlights the use of this practice as a deterrent from, or punishment for, political dissent during the era of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, and charts a peak in its use over the last two years, under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, respectively. This trend is clear from the interviews featured with young men, who have been detained without charge from the site of protests such as Tahrir Square, and subsequently beaten and sexually abused.

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Human Rights Watch Statement on Zero Dark Thirty

The movie Zero Dark Thirty, which depicts the hunt for Osama bin Laden, wrongly suggests that torture was an ugly but useful tactic in the fight against terrorism. It also falsely implies that information obtained through torture was critical to finding bin Laden. As the film-makers note, it is a fictionalized account, not a documentary. The use of torture violates US law and the country’s international legal obligations – even when “authorized” by the US government.  Its use damaged the reputation of the United States and its ability to promote human rights while giving cover to abusers worldwide who use such techniques against political opponents and activists. Torture was counter-productive in the fight against terrorism, producing false and misleading information that may in fact have slowed the search for bin Laden and diverted attention from genuine security threats.

The full scope and nature of US government torture remains hidden, in part because the US has kept many details of the program secret. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in December  adopted a 6,000-page classified report detailing the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, a program under which much of the torture and other ill-treatment occurred. The committee should seek – and the Obama administration should support – declassification and release of the report, both to counter misinformation about the supposed value of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and to provide the public with a full accounting of past US government policy and practice.

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The judicial system in Bahrain is neither independent nor fair. It is used as a tool to go after and punish dissidents. Within the last two years, Bahrain has witnessed thousands of political cases based on trumped-up charges. During the summer, political prisoners were denied air conditioning despite the unbearable heat of Bahrain. At some points, they were not allowed to shower. Sometimes they were not allowed to pray or even use the bathroom. Many of the political prisoners still suffer due to severe torture and are prevented from adequate medical care. We continue to have cases of minors under eighteen who are imprisoned and at times, tried under the internationally condemned terrorism law.