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Judge considers Gitmo force-feeding in first test of Detainee Treatment Act

[JURIST] At a hearing in Washington Thursday US District Judge Gladys Kessler [official profile] questioned the treatment of Mohammed Bawazir, a former hunger striker at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] eventually force-fed in treatment his lawyers say was torture contrary to the terms of the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) [JURIST document]. Bawazir, from Yemen, claims [JURIST report] that he gave up his hunger strike because the force-feedings [JURIST news archive] - during which he was strapped to a restraining chair and fed through a large tube - were too painful. Kessler called his allegations "extremely disturbing". US Justice Department attorney Terry Henry countered with affidavits from Guantanamo officers, including commander Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood and detentions hospital head Capt. Stephen Hooker, suggesting that Bawazir received high-quality and humane treatment throughout the hunger strike. He argued that in any event Guantanamo prisoners could not invoke the DTA. Referring to the affidavits, Kessler responded: "I know it's a sad day when a federal judge has to ask a DOJ attorney this, but I'm asking you -- why should I believe them", and directed the government and the detainee’s lawyers to collect and present more information for a hearing March 13. The Washington Post has more.

This is the first time that a US court has heard arguments on the DTA, passed late last year at the urging of Senator John McCain [JURIST news archive]. The act prohibits cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of any person in the US government's custody, at home or abroad, but under a provision known as the Levin-Graham Amendment [JURIST report] also limits access by Guantanamo detainees to the federal court system to enforce their rights. AP has more.

On Friday, the BBC released an interview [recorded audio] with another former Guantanamo hunger striker, Kuwaiti Fawzi al-Odah [JURIST report], who described the force-feeding process and at one point added "One guy, a Saudi, told me that he had once been tortured in Saudi Arabia and that this metal chair treatment was worse than any torture he had ever endured or could imagine." BBC News has more.

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