The top of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States on Tuesday called on U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.

In a letter, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops described the situation of detainees in Guantanamo Bay as morally reprehensible.

"Detainees have the right to a just and fair trial held in a timely manner," he told Hagel. "For at least 86 detainees 'a crime has not first been proven.' The indefinite detention of detainees is not only injurious to those individuals, it also wounds the moral reputation of our nation, compromises our commitment to the rule of law, and undermines our struggle against terrorism."

Pates further said reports of forced feedings of prisoners on hunger strike suggested the U.S. was violating the basic human rights of Guantanamo detainees.

"The procedure involves shackling and strapping down the detainee as a tube is inserted through the nose into the stomach," he explained. "Rather than resorting to such measures, our nation should first do everything it can to address the conditions of despair that have led to this protest."

Closing the controversial prison facility was a key campaign promise in 2008, but President Barack Obama has failed to shutter the facility thanks in part to Republicans in Congress. In April, Obama renewed his pledge to close Guantanamo.

[Guantanamo protesters via Shutterstock]