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150 doctors write to Obama offering services to Guantánamo hunger strikers

The more than 100 detainees on hunger strike at the detention facility have said that they do not trust military doctors who engaged in painful force-feeding.

A US trooper stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay.
A US trooper stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay.
Image: Brennan Linsley/AP/PA

AN OPEN LETTER addressed to US President Barack Obama, signed by over 150 doctors and healthcare professionals, today calls for him to address the medical crisis awaiting hunger strikers currently in detention at Guantánamo Bay.

There are currently thought to be more than 100 detainees on hunger strike at the detention facility, with growing numbers of medical professionals expressing concerns in recent weeks that strikers are not receiving an adequate, or humane, standard of medical care while being treated by military physicians.

On 31 May, 2013, The Guardian published a letter from thirteen hunger strikers to their military doctor, in which the detainees pleaded to be allowed access to independent medical advice and examination, claiming that it was impossible for them to trust military doctors who had engaged in degrading and painful force-feeding.

Over 150 doctors have now signed a letter,  published in the online medical journal The Lancet today, urging Obama to attend to the detainees’ requests and provide access to independent medical examination and advice as a matter of urgency.

According to the authors of the letter:

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. That makes it imperative for them to have access to independent medical examination and advice, as they ask, and as required by the UN and World Medical Association.

“We endorse their request, and are prepared to visit them under appropriate conditions, to assist in their recovery and release, and certify when we are confident it is medically safe for them to fly,” said the signatories. “If you keep your word (given over 4 years ago), and arrange release of detainees, they will need to become fit to fly before they can be returned to wherever you order your forces to send them.”

Since 2002, 779 prisoners have been moved to the detention camp in Cuba and most of the 166 who remain are charged with no crime.

Related: Group to protest Irish government ‘silence’ on Guantanamo Bay>
More: Pressure grows on Obama to free hunger strikers – or put them on trial>

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