Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Guantanamo Hunger Strike: Force-Feedings Won't Clash with Ramadan, US Says

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Guantanamo Hunger Strike: Force-Feedings Won't Clash with Ramadan, US Says

Article excerpt

Government lawyers on Wednesday defended the US military's policy of force-feeding Guantanamo detainees engaged in a long-running hunger strike at the US naval base in Cuba.

They said plans to continue the force-feeding in the weeks ahead would not clash with the Islamic fast during the month of Ramadan, which is set to begin on Monday.

The government lawyers said the staff schedule at Guantanamo would be altered so that feedings would take place pre-dawn or after sunset in full accord with Ramadan tradition.

Muslims worldwide celebrate the month of Ramadan by forgoing food and water from sunup to sundown. Muslim faithful are permitted to eat and drink before dawn and after sunset.

The lawyers also denied that the government had forcibly administered an anti-nausea drug to any of four complaining detainees at Guantanamo.

The comments came in response to a request on Sunday by lawyers for four Guantanamo detainees that a federal judge in Washington block the US government from force-feeding detainees in violation of the Ramadan fast.

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They also accused the US of administering the drug Reglan to their clients. They charged that prolonged use of the drug carried dangerous side-effects, including depression, thoughts of suicide, and suicide.

US District Judge Rosemary Collyer gave the government until noon Wednesday to reply to the injunction request.

Justice Department lawyers told the judge in a 20-page filing on Wednesday that the request on behalf of the detainees was an attempt to litigate issues concerning conditions of confinement and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo.

Under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress chose to withdraw any jurisdiction of the federal courts to consider issues involving the detention, treatment, or conditions of confinement of an alien detained as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo. As such, the issues were beyond the court's power to address, the lawyers said.

Nonetheless, the lawyers also defended US policies undertaken at Guantanamo in responding to the hunger strike. They said the policies are appropriate and humane.

Of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo, the government says 106 are engaged in some form of hunger strike. Forty-five have been designated for forced-feedings by Guantanamo staff.

"It is the policy of the Department of Defense to support the preservation of life and health by appropriate clinical means and standard medical intervention, in a humane manner, and in accordance with all applicable standards," the government lawyers said.

The policy to prevent prisoners from starving themselves to death follows the same guidelines adopted by the federal Bureau of Prisons in managing hunger strikes, they said.

The US government has a "legitimate interest in providing life- saving nutritional and medical care in order to preserve the life and prevent suicidal acts of individuals in [the US government's] care," the government's brief said. …

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