WASHINGTON, July 16 (Reuters) - A U.S. military nurse at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has declined to participate in the force feeding of inmates on hunger strikes, becoming the first conscientious objector to the practice there, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
"This nurse did not want to participate in the enteral feeding and has since been assigned other duties," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters, acknowledging a recent incident first reported by the Miami Herald.
Prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay naval base have engaged in hunger strikes for years and the Pentagon noted there was a previous incident where a medical practitioner declined to carry out other types of duties.
"That medical practitioner was also reassigned and it was handled administratively," Warren said, adding that the most recent case would be dealt with by the nurse's superiors.
Colonel Greg Julian, a spokesman at the U.S. military's Southern Command, confirmed the nurse was the first member of the staff to refuse to participate in the practice.
In June, a Syrian prisoner at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said in a court petition that his force-feedings amounted to torture and asked a judge to order his jailers to make them "civilized."
Designed to keep hunger strikers alive, the procedure involves feeding them liquid meals via tubes inserted into their noses and down into their stomachs.
The U.S. military has defended the practice as has President Barack Obama, telling a news conference last year: "I don't want these individuals to die." (Reporting by Phil Stewart, editing by G Crosse)