Judge Won’t Halt Guantanamo Force-Feedings, Despite Inmate’s Request

A federal judge ruled that she will not block force-feedings at Guantanamo prison camp, despite an inmate’s request to do so. US District Judge Gladys Kessler explained that she would be overstepping her authority to issue an injunction.

The request was made by inmate Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian and one of four prisoners to make the request. The court has not yet ruled on the other three requests from Algerian captives Ahmed Belbacha and Nabil Hadjarab, along with Saudi prisoner Shaker Aamer, who has British residency.

Judge Kessler added in her ruling on Monday that President Barack Obama is the only person with the power to halt the Guantanamo force-feedings, which are being done to keep prisoners alive during a months-long hunger strike against their indefinite imprisonment.

The four inmates requesting the feedings to stop are among the 86 prisoners already cleared for release or transfer. The US military currently has 166 inmates at the Guantanamo detention camp. Of those, 106 are on a hunger strike and 45 are being force-fed.

While Kessler explained she cannot stop the force-feedings at Guantanamo, she did add in her four-page ruling that Dhiab had “set out in great detail in his papers what appears to be a consensus” that the force-feedings violate international law.

The ruling comes after the Obama administration’s lawyers argued that the court didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case. they added that the government has a well-established legal authority to force-feed detainees on a hunger strike.

In her statement, Kessler appeared to be critical of the Obama administration, saying of the force-feedings, “There is an individual who does have the authority to address the issue.” She also quoted the US president’s speech from May, where he said he was critical of the practice and promised to restart the process of transferring cleared prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay.

Judge Kessler added of the force-feedings, “It is perfectly clear from the statements of detainees, as well as the statements from the organizations just cited, that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating, and degrading process.” The US federal judge cited statements from the American Medical Association, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and several other organizations that are critical of the Guantanamo force-feedings.

It is unclear what will happen now that the judge has denied an inmate’s request to halt the practice.

[image via Michael Billings]