Washington - A US Navy nurse has refused to take part in force-feeding Guantanamo inmates on hunger strike, the first time a medical officer has openly objected to the practice, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
The male nurse, whose name has not been disclosed, was part of a medical team at the US-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that feeds detainees by inserting a tube up their nose, down the throat and into the stomach.
"This nurse did not want to take part in the enteral feeding and has since been assigned to other duties," spokesperson Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.
Asked if the nurse would be disciplined for his protest, Warren said the case was under review.
"This matter is being handled administratively by the chain of command," he said.
Pentagon officials said another medical officer previously had declined to participate in an unspecified procedure but that case did not involve tube feedings.
A defence lawyer representing some of the detainees hailed the nurse as a hero and said it was the first instance of a medical officer rebelling against force-feeding since inmates began a hunger strike last year.
"This is a historic stand by this nurse, who recognised the basic humanity of the detainees and the inhumanity of what he was being asked to do," lawyer Cori Crider said in a statement from the British legal defence group Reprieve.
"He should be commended," said Crider, who learned of the protest in a phone call with his client, Abu Wael Dhiab, a Syrian detainee.
Dhiab is part of a federal court case demanding an end to the tube feeding, which some medical professional groups have termed unethical.
Sixteen news organisations have demanded the government publicly release videotapes of shackled inmates undergoing force-feeding.
US military authorities overseeing the Guantanamo prison used to provide daily updates on how many inmates were on hunger strike and how many underwent tube feedings but now decline to provide the information.
There are 149 inmates still at the extraordinary prison set up under former president George W Bush after the 9/11 attacks.
The detainees brought to the US naval base at Guantanamo were purportedly terror suspects and labeled "enemy combatants". But most have never been charged in court and the US government is trying to speed up the transfer of the remaining inmates to their home nations or third countries.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly vowed to close the prison.