Nonviolence International staff member Andrés Thomas Conteris underwent public nasal force-feeding in Washington, DC on Friday, October 18, in protest of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in prisons around the United States.
The force-feeding took place outside the US District Court of Appeals, where a panel of judges considered a lawsuit concerning the practice of force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. Defense attorneys argue that force-feeding is a violation of human rights and religious freedom, while the Obama administration maintains its necessity. The protest was intended to bring public awareness to the painful nature of the feeding process, which Guantanamo Bay prisoners undergo twice per day, as they strike in protest of indefinite detainment.
The Guantanamo Bay hunger strike began in February. At its peak in July, 106 of 166 prisoners participated. Forty-six of those were force-fed. Seventeen prisoners are still on strike. On May 23, President Obama again pledged to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in response to the strike and protests. Only two prisoners have been released since, although about half are scheduled for release or transfer. Indefinite detainment at Guantanamo is condemned worldwide, while force-feeding has been denounced by many US politicians and international organizations, including the United Nations.
Conteris's hunger strike also coincided with that of 30,000 inmates in California prisons. From July to September, these prisoners were on hunger strike in protest of the treatment and conditions in supermax facilities, which often deny inmates any human contact for 23 hours per day, sometimes for months or years. Human rights experts from the United Nations urge prisons to end these practices on the grounds that they are inhumane and "contrary to rehabilitation."
Conteris began his hunger strike on July 8, 2013. Since then, he has also participated in force-feeding protests in front of the White House, the US Embassies in Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehab. Conteris, age 52, has sustained his water-only fast for 106 days with a brief 3-day interruption, and lost a total of 57 pounds.
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