Guantanamo lawyers warn of 'force-feeding factory' during Ramadan

By agency reporter
July 6, 2013

Lawyers for four Guantanamo detainees have criticised the Obama administration’s “equivocal” response over whether daytime force-feeding will take place during Ramadan, ( and warned that the prison may become “a veritable force-feeding factory” during the religious period.

In a reply filed yesterday to the Government’s response to court proceedings brought by the four men, Guantanamo counsel Cori Crider, of the human rights charity Reprieve, and Jon B Eisenberg propose that the US Government should consent to a court-enforceable decree to ensure that detainees’ religious rights are not violated.

They argue that this is necessary as Government lawyers have remained “silent…as to how they might implement nighttime-only force-feeding,” and as, given the high number currently being force-fed, “nighttime-only force-feeding seems problematic at best and possibly even dangerous to petitioners’ health.”

US authorities have claimed that they intend to only force-feed during the night, in order to avoid breaking the daytime fast which is the central part of Ramadan. However, Lt. Col Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, told CNN this week that doing so "is an accommodation, not a right."

Crider and Eisenberg add that, based on Guantanamo authorities’ own numbers, there will be “just 10 hours and 44 minutes [between sunset and sunrise] for respondents to implement two force-feedings of 45 detainees for up to an hour of feeding time and four hours of total observation time per detainee” which “could require dozens of restraint chairs and hundreds of staff.”

They warn that “if this can even be achieved, Guantanamo Bay will become a veritable force-feeding factory” and therefore propose “that respondents agree to a consent decree, enforceable by this Court, which will have the legal effect of securing the detainees’ rights to observe the Ramadan fast and to refuse the administration of [anti-nausea drug] Reglan.”

The attorneys for the four detainees – Shaker Aamer, Nabil Hadjarab, Ahmed Belbacha and Abu Wa’el Dhiab – also take issue with the Government lawyers’ claim that “the public interest lies with maintaining the status quo,” pointing to President Obama’s recent description of Guantanamo as “a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.”

“We submit,” say Crider and Eisenberg, “that America’s public interest lies not in force-feeding the petitioners to prolong their indefinite detention, but in either trial or release as ‘ready alternatives’ to force-feeding.” They note that the US Government “insist[s] that petitioners’ force-feeding is necessary to prevent them from ‘lay[ing] waste to their bodies,’” and in response state that “Petitioners’ indefinite detention, however, is laying waste to their souls.”


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