US judge allows force feeding of Guantanamo prisoner to continue

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] issued an order [text, PDF] late Thursday allowing the military to resume force feeding a Syrian prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, stating that "the court is in no position to make the complex medical decisions necessary" to keep the prisoner alive. In the order, US District Judge Gladys Kessler [official profile] said that she would not reissue a recent temporary order [JURIST report] that stopped the military from force feeding prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab [advocacy website] due to his rapidly deteriorating condition. Dhiab's lawyers argued that the military's practice of forcibly removing him and other prisoners from their cells, restraining them to a chair and feeding them by inserting tubes into the nose is illegal and abusive. Judge Kessler states that she strongly suggested that the government and Dhiab's lawyers come to a compromise about the procedure used to enterally feed Dhiab and the other prisoners, but the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] "refused to make these compromises." As a result, the court was faced with the choice to either reissue a halt of the practices at the risk of Dhiab dying, or allow medical personnel to take action to keep him alive at the "possible cost of great pain and suffering." Dhiab has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 after being arrested in Pakistan on suspicion to terrorist activity targeting the United States. Currently Dhiab has been on a hunger strike while being detained, prompting guards to practice force feeding measures to ensure good nutrition. Dhiab's lawyers are ultimately seeking [Reuters report] an order that would force the DOD to change its practices.

Allegations of human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST archive] have been an issue since the first prisoners were detained there in 2002. Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the US [JURIST report] to release 76 detainees who had been cleared for transfer but had not yet been released from Guantanamo. Weeks earlier a Saudi detainee requested release [JURIST report] to the UK to be with his family because of severe physical and mental health issues that his attorneys argued could take a lifetime to treat. In March a Guantanamo detainee launched a lawsuit against the US challenging the practice of force-feeding [JURIST report] prisoners who have attempted to participate in hunger strikes. In February a detainee filed a lawsuit alleging that he should be released [JURIST report] because he was a prisoner of war from the US mission in Afghanistan, and accordingly should be released since the US is withdrawing from the country. This lawsuit came weeks after US President Barack Obama [official website] renewed a push to have the detention center closed [JURIST report] this year, stating that it would be appropriate given the ending of the conflict in Afghanistan and would set an example by remaining true to democratic and constitutional values. Obama had originally pledged to close the detention center five years ago.

 

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