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Force-feedings to continue for Guantánamo Bay detainee

Federal judge says U.S. can force-feed Syrian detainee to prevent him from dying

A federal judge ruled Friday that a Guantánamo Bay detainee would continue to be force-fed while legal proceedings continue over his treatment at the prison camp.

Late last week, Judge Gladys Kessler issued a temporary restraining order to stop Guantánamo personnel from forcibly extracting detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab from his cell and inserting feeding tubes through his nostril to keep him alive. Dhiab, a Syrian national, has been refusing food and water to protest his indefinite imprisonment without charges in Guantánamo Bay since 2002.

In her latest ruling, however, Kessler said that to keep Dhiab alive, the force feedings, which have been criticized by human rights activists as abusive, would have to continue. Kessler noted that Dhiab had signaled a willingness to be fed in more humane conditions at the Guantánamo Bay hospital before the Defense Department refused to make that concession.

“If he could have been enterally fed in that manner, it would have then been possible to litigate his plea to enjoin certain practices used in his force feedings in a civilized and legally appropriate manner,” Kessler said in her ruling. “The Department of Defense refused to make these compromises.”

Kessler wrote that the agency’s position had forced the court to make “an anguishing Hobson’s choice” — either allow Dhiab to die or inflict “great pain and suffering” on him through continued feedings through his protest.

“The court simply cannot let Mr. Dhiab die,” the ruling read.

As proceedings continue in this unprecedented lawsuit against the Obama administration regarding the treatment of hunger-striking Guantánamo detainees, the judge also set a schedule for when secret videos of the force-feedings and other documents must be turned over to the court and Dhiab’s lawyers.

The government must hand over to lawyers dozens of videotapes of Dhiab being removed from his cell, strapped in a restraint chair and force-fed by June 13 — videos that the Defense Department had not acknowledged had existed before last week, according to The Guardian. It will be the first time someone other than a government official will be allowed to view the tapes.

Officials must also submit to the judge, by June 10, Dhiab’s full medical records from 2013 – when hunger strikes hit their peak at Guantánamo  Bay – and a listing of all forced-cell extraction and force-feeding protocols. The next hearing for the lawsuit has been set for June 16.

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