Ethics of Force-feeding Guantanamo Bay Detainees
Previously published on May 9, 2013
The infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center continues to generate one controversy after another for the US military. While hunger strikes have long plagued the facility, the practice has been taken to a whole new level of unhealthy in recent months with over half of the detainees refusing to eat. Although the military recognizes the detainees have a right to protest, their policy is to use feeding tubes to force-feed any individual who is in a critical stage of starvation. Several human rights groups consider the intervention a violation of the detainee's human rights. That is, the practice violates a person's right to be treated humanely, i.e. the feeding tubes case undue discomfort, right to self-determination, and right to protest.
Ironically, these same groups would probably accuse the US military of violating human rights, if they allowed these detainees to simply starve to death as doing so would indicate intentional neglect/mistreat of the detainees. That said, the right to self-determination and the right to protest are human rights; however, these rights are severely truncated for these individual due to the fact they are imprisoned. Legitimately imprisoned individuals forfeit their right to self-determination while their right to protest is only limited to activities undertaken to ensure their human and civil rights are respected by their caretakers. Meanwhile, it is important to remember suicide is illegal and the US government does intervene to prevent the suicide of free individuals all the time, by force if necessary.
Unfortunately, it is questionable as to whether or not these detainees are being held legitimately. Not only is the term enemy combatant loosely defined and applied inconsistently, i.e. those being held as enemy combatants have not been formally charged with crimes, have not been given an adequate opportunity to review or protest the validity of even basic evidence, or been freed when they have been legally guaranteed their freedom. Certainly, foreigners do not have Constitutional rights, but the world standing and moral character of the United States is deeply rooted in justice, human rights, and freedom from arbitrary imprisonment for all. As such, the US needs to do more to bring Guantanamo Bay away from the practices that pushed our Forefathers to found our Nation by embracing the principles that all Americans are supposed to espouse. In short, the ethical concerns of using feeding tubes is somewhat superficial as the real ethical violation is whether or not these individuals are being illegitimately held by the United States government.