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Judge says only Obama can stop force-feeding

Tue., July 9, 2013

WASHINGTON – A federal judge voiced sympathy Monday for Guantanamo Bay detainees but said she was powerless to stop force-feeding by U.S. authorities.

Ruling just before Ramadan, the monthlong holiday when pious Muslims fast during the day, Senior U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said she lacked the legal jurisdiction to stop the force-feeding program challenged by four detainees. At the same time, Kessler all but urged President Barack Obama to take action as she underscored the unpleasant feeding regime that’s being meted out to detainees who’ve gone on hunger strikes.

“It is perfectly clear … that forced-feeding is a painful, humiliating and degrading process,” Kessler wrote.

Forty-five Guantanamo Bay detainees are currently being force-fed, out of 106 who are known to be on hunger strikes.

While the Obama administration, in legal filings, stressed the “timely, compassionate, quality” health care the detainees are getting, Kessler noted that the detainees “set out in great details in (their) papers what appears to be a consensus that forced-feeding of prisoners violates Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”

Four detainees, each of whom has been cleared for release from Guantanamo, challenged the force-feeding in court and asked that Kessler rule quickly before the start of Ramadan this week.

Defense Department officials have said they’ll conduct the force-feeding at night, to comport with Ramadan’s proscription against daytime eating.

Kessler said Congress essentially had tied her hands. A federal law says “no court, justice or judge shall have jurisdiction” to consider legal actions concerning the treatment or “conditions of confinement” of those who “have been properly detained as an enemy combatant.” The “one individual who does have the authority to address the issue,” Kessler said, is Obama.


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