Skip to main content

Doctors to Obama: Let us treat hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo

By Chelsea J. Carter and Kevin Liptak, CNN
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
Protresters demanding the closing of the Guantanamo detention facility and the end of the ongoing hunger strike by 103 of the inmates stand outside the White House in Washington on May 24, 2013.
Protresters demanding the closing of the Guantanamo detention facility and the end of the ongoing hunger strike by 103 of the inmates stand outside the White House in Washington on May 24, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Lancet medical journal published the open letter on Tuesday
  • The letter is signed by more than 150 doctors and medical professionals
  • They are asking the president to allow them to treat the hunger-striking detainees
  • Thirteen detainees wrote an open letter in May pleading for civilian doctors

(CNN) -- In an open letter to President Barack Obama published Tuesday, dozens of doctors asked to be allowed to treat hunger-striking prisoners at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

For four months, many detainees at Guantanamo have been on a hunger strike, protesting their detention at the facility.

"It is clear that they do not trust their military doctors," the more than 150 doctors and other medical professionals wrote in an open letter published online by The Lancet medical journal.

"They have very good reason for this, as you should know, from the current protocols of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, which those doctors are ordered to follow."

Obama renews call to close Gitmo
Gitmo prisoners being force-fed

In May, 13 detainees wrote an open letter in the UK-based Guardian newspaper asking to see civilian doctors because they said they did not trust the military doctors whom they accused of force-feeding them against their will.

In their letter to Obama, the doctors and medical professionals said: "The orders they receive are ultimately your orders as their Commander-in-Chief. Without trust, safe and acceptable medical care of mentally competent patients is impossible. Since the detainees do not trust their military doctors, they are unlikely to comply with current medical advice."

Of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo, 104 are on a hunger strike to protest their treatment an indefinite detention, according to Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for the detention facility.

Forty-four of the detainees have received "enteral feeding," where a tube is inserted through the nose and down the throat to administer liquids, military officials said.

The detainee protest began last year, with five to six detainees starting and stopping hunger strikes. But the number grew after lawyers for some of those held drew attention to conditions at the facility, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a spokesman on detainee issues at the Pentagon, said earlier this year.

Human rights groups have long protested the detention of suspected enemy fighters who haven't been charged with crimes.

The government says the detainees are too dangerous to transfer but cannot be tried, characterizing them as war prisoners under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Act.

Obama has recently renewed his vow to shut the prison established last decade to house suspected terrorists.

The open letter from the doctors came a day after the federal government was forced to release the names of dozens of detainees at the military prison after a newspaper sued the federal government for the information.

The list released Monday identifies 46 inmates being held for "continued detention" at the facility. The report was made public after a lawsuit by the Miami Herald. The Obama administration first acknowledged that detainees were being held indefinitely in Guantanamo in 2010 but didn't make their identities public until now.

Of the 46 detainees listed for indefinite detention, the report shows that 26 are from Yemen, 10 are from Afghanistan, three are from Saudi Arabia, two each are from Libya and Kuwait, and one each are from Kenya, Somalia and Morocco.

CNN's Miriam Falco contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT