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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.

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