Judge rejects request to block force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainees

A military officer stands near the entrance to Camp VI at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Joe Raedle/GETTY IMAGES)
July 16, 2013

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the request of three Guantanamo Bay detainees on hunger strike to block the U.S. military’s practice of force-feeding.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said federal courts are prohibited from ruling on detainee treatment and conditions of confinement at the detention center in Cuba.

“There is nothing so shocking or inhumane in the treatment of petitioners — which they can avoid at will — to raise a constitutional concern that might otherwise necessitate review,” she wrote.

Collyer also found that the detainees had not shown that the military’s policy is “unreasonable.”

“Petitioners’ real complaint is that the United States is not allowing them to commit suicide by starvation,” the judge wrote, adding that the military has a responsibility to preserve detainees’ health.

Collyer’s opinion came after a fellow judge on the U.S. District Court in Washington dismissed a separate detainee request on similar grounds. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, however, called the process of force-feeding “painful, humiliating and degrading.” She wrote that President Obama, who has been critical of the practice, has the authority to stop it.

An attorney for the detainee in the case before Kessler has filed a motion for reconsideration.

The hunger strike, which began in February, was sparked by the handling of Korans during searches for contraband, according to lawyers for the detainees. It has since become a larger protest of the Obama administration not closing the facility, where 86 of the 166 detainees have been cleared for transfer out.

The number of hunger-strikers has recently begun to fall. As of Tuesday, 80 detainees were on hunger strike and 46 of them were being force-fed, according to the military. That figure shows a continuing decline in the number of hunger-strikers, which was at a peak of 106 last week.

Ann covers legal affairs in the District and Maryland for the Washington Post. Ann previously covered state government and politics in California, New Hampshire and Maryland. She joined the Post in 2005.
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