The United Nations has condemned the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The Daily Beast takes a look back at major hunger strikes as a form of social protest.
Force-feeding striking Guantánamo prisoners through a nasal tube is torture, a United Nations official declared Wednesday. “If it is perceived as torture or inhuman treatment—and it’s the case, it’s painful—then it is prohibited by international law,” Rupert Coville, a spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said of the U.S. military’s forceful tactic of keeping hunger-striking terror suspects alive. Colville’s statement echoes the view of the American Medical Association, whose president wrote, in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel earlier this week, that “every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions.”
As the Obama administration deliberates how best to handle the strike—and the ethics of Guantánamo in general—the plight of 100 hunger-striking prisoners raises the question of whether starving oneself to the point of illness or even death is an effective or worthwhile form of protest. The Daily Beast takes a look at the political history of hunger strikes.