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Friday, February 13, 2009

Force Feeding in Gitmo Will Continue

On Tuesday, a federal judge said that Guantanamo guards can continue to forcibly feed inmates at the detention facility. Several prisoners have engaged in hunger strikes to protest both their treatment and their detention by the U.S. government. The statement came in response to a petition filed by two such prisoners who had been strapped down and forced to ingest food. The inmates had requested that the court put a stop the forced feedings.

In the case, Judge Gladys Kessler, appointed to the D.C. District Court by President Clinton, ruled that the Military Commissions Act stripped the federal judiciary of its authority to interfere in issues surrounding the “conditions of confinement” facing the prisoners. She went on to note, however, that even if she had authority to rule on the issue, she would not stop the feedings. She said the guards were “acting out of a need to preserve the life of the Petitioners.”

The practice of force-feeding involves restraining a prisoner in a chair, securing his head with Velcro, placing a tube into the detainee’s stomach via his nostrils and then injecting a nutrient-shake. This is done twice a day and can take as long as an hour. The plaintiffs in this case claim their feedings took much longer.

A spectrum of human rights groups have condemned the practice of force-feeding as more evidence of the government’s inhumane treatment of its detainees. Even Judge Kessler herself seemed disturbed by the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, stating in her opinion that living conditions at Guantanamo “have been harsh.” She added that she is “painfully aware” that the prisoners’ complaints of brutality may never be resolved.

Judge Kessler's decision did note that President Obama has the authority to put an end to the forced feedings, a point that leaves the future of this practice strictly in the administration's hands.

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