It was the first time a judge ordered a halt to force-feeding of a
prisoner in Guantanamo, where last year during a hunger strike, as
many as 46 of 166 inmates were force-fed at least some of their
meals. Several sued.
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the U.S. government
to stop force-feeding Abu Wa'el Dhiab until a hearing on May 21. She
also ordered the military to stop extracting him from his cell if he
refuses to go to feedings.
The judge said the government also must preserve all videotape
evidence of forcible cell extractions and force-feeding until the
hearing next Wednesday.
Human rights advocates and many doctors call force-feeding a
violation of personal liberty and medical ethics. The procedure,
designed to keep hunger strikers alive, involves feeding them liquid
meals via tubes inserted into their noses and down into their
"While the Department follows the law and only applies enteral
feeding in order to preserve life, we will, of course, comply with
the judge's order here," Defense Department spokesman Lieutenant
Colonel Todd Breasseale said in reaction to the ruling.
Last July, Kessler, based in Washington D.C., denied Dhiab's request
to halt the force-feeding, saying she would be overstepping her
authority if she issued an injunction and adding that only President
Barack Obama had the power to intervene.
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But in February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit ruled that Guantanamo prisoners have the right to
sue over force-feeding and that judges have the authority to
consider petitions challenging aspects of how the U.S. military
Dhiab's attorney's hailed the decision as a turning point.
"This is a major crack in Guantanamo's years-long effort to oppress
prisoners and to exercise total control over information about the
prison," one of Dhiab's attorneys, Cori Crider said.
"I am glad Judge Kessler has taken this seriously, and we look
forward to our full day in court to expose the appalling way Dhiab
and others have been treated," Crider added.
(Reporting by Sandra Maler; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in
Washington and David Ingram in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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