[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Monday denied [opinion, PDF] a Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] prisoner’s petition [text, PDF] to end the practice of force-feeding hunger strikers. Judge Gladys Kessler said the court lacked jurisdiction, but “It would seem to follow, therefore, that the President of the United States, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority—and power—to directly address the issue of force-feeding of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.” The Court also stated that based on the petitioner’s motion there “appears to be a consensus that the force-feeding of prisoners violates Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.” Abu Wa’el Dhiab, the named petitioner, Shaker Aamer, Ahmed Belbacha and Nabil Hadjarab filed motions [JURIST report] last week alleging that the practice violates human rights law and medical ethics, while serving “no penological interest.” They requested an accelerated hearing on the issue to avoid any conflict with the Islamic holiday Ramadan, which began the evening of July 8. They also noted that they have all been detained at Guantanamo for 11 years and have since determined that it is not likely they will ever be charged or released, and thus their being force-fed serves no military necessity.
Currently, there are 166 detainees at the Guantanamo prison, of which 106 are on hunger strike and 46 are classified as indefinite detainees[JURIST report]. Last month a federal judge called on members of Congress and President Barack Obama [official website] 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. In contrast, the House Armed Services Committee [official website] approved [JURIST report] the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [HR 1960, PDF] in early June, which allocates more than 200 million dollars to keep the detention center open.