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Federal judge denies petition to end force-feeding of Guantanamo detainees

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday denied [opinion, PDF] a motion by Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] detainees to end forced feeding of hunger-striking prisoners. The petitioners maintained that the practice was cruel and that it would interfere with their religious practices during the month of Ramadan, which began on July 8 and requires fasting during daylight hours. In her opinion, Judge Rosemary Collyer found that the court does not have jurisdiction to decide the case. She also noted that even if the court had jurisdiction, she would not have granted the order, saying: "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." Collyer also pointed out that the Guantanamo staff had plans to accommodate the petitioners' religious needs during Ramadan.

A judge in a similar case also ruled last week that the federal courts do not have jurisdiction [JURIST report] over the forced-feeding issue. Several hunger striking detainees filed motions [JURIST report] earlier this month alleging that the practice violates human rights law and medical ethics, while serving "no penological interest." Currently, there are 166 detainees at the Guantanamo prison, of which 46 are classified as indefinite detainees [JURIST report]. Last month a federal judge called on members of Congress and President Barack Obama to give serious consideration to formulating a different approach [JURIST report] for the handling of Guantanamo Bay detainee cases. Just days prior Obama had appointed [JURIST report] Clifford Sloan to be the new envoy in charge of closing Guantanamo Bay. The appointment followed a speech [JURIST report] Obama made in May that outlined US counterterrorism policy and efforts. In his speech, he detailed the steps needed to get prisoners out of Guantanamo, but cautioned that he cannot close the facility on his own.

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