Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) denied authorizing force-feeding — a practice that international groups have said amounts to torture — during his time at Guantanamo Bay, according to a new interview.
In an interview airing Thursday on “Piers Morgan Uncensored,” DeSantis said the allegations that he authorized force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay were “absolutely” wrong, saying that he did not have the authority to do so.
“I was a junior officer. I didn’t have authority to authorize anything,” he told Piers Morgan. “There may have been a commander that would have done feeding if someone was going to die, but that was not something that I would have even had authority to do.”
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the Florida governor backed force-feeding in his capacity as a legal adviser, according to an interview he gave to a local CBS news station in 2018. In the interview, DeSantis recalled moments when a commanding officer would ask a legal adviser how they could “combat” hunger strikes by detainees.
“Hey, you actually can force-feed,” DeSantis said the legal advisers would respond. “Here’s what you can do. Here’s kind of the rules for that.”
He said that the detainees at the prison would claim that they were being abused and would use that as an “offensive” against the officers.
DeSantis said in the interview he learned during his time there that “they are using things like detainee abuse offensively against us.” He added that it was a “tactic, technique and procedure.”
Prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay have voiced that the prison’s treatment of its detainees violated human rights. The International Committee of the Red Cross found in 2004 that the prison used methods “tantamount to torture” on its detainees.
The United Nations’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declared in 2013 that the force-feeding practices led by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay were “ill-treatments” that could lead to forms of torture.
According to the commission, detainees are strapped to a chair while a feeding tube is “roughly inserted” in the nose into the stomach and “roughly extracted” when being force-fed. The commission added that detainees may have also been strapped to the chair for hours afterwards to prevent them from throwing up what was fed to them.
“Health care personnel may not apply undue pressure of any sort on individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike,” the declaration read. “Nor is it acceptable to use threats of forced feeding or other types of physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have voluntarily decided to go on a hunger strike.”
DeSantis served in the U.S. Navy from 2004 to 2019 and was assigned to the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps.