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Judges Give US Government 48 Hours to Respond in Guantanamo Force-Feeding Case
WASHINGTON - US federal judges have ordered the Government to respond to a case brought by force-fed detainees in Guantanamo Bay within two days.
The order, handed down today by the US District Court in Washington, DC, comes in response to a motion filed Sunday night by detainees’ lawyers in an attempt to stop Guantanamo authorities from force-feeding them.
The motion has been given added urgency by concerns that prison staff will force-feed the Muslim detainees during Ramadan – a period of day-time fasting in Islam which begins on July 8. The detainees have been on hunger-strike since February this year over their continued detention without charge or trial.
Judge Collyer orders that the US Government “shall file a response to the motion for preliminary injunction no later than 12:00 p.m. Eastern on July 3, 2013.”
The motion, brought by Shaker Aamer, Nabil Hadjarab, Ahmed Belbacha and Abu Wa’el Dhiab – all of whom have been cleared for release - was filed in on Sunday by legal charity and counsel for the men, Reprieve, along with co-counsel Jon B. Eisenberg. It asks that the court rule to stop force-feeding in the prison and stop force-medicating prisoners, particularly with Reglan, a drug used by the US during the force-feeding process that when used for extended periods of time can cause severe neurological disorders, including one that mimics Parkinson’s disease.
The motion also states that “Petitioners request an expeditious hearing on this application because of the extreme nature of the human rights and medical ethics violations that result from petitioners’ force-feeding, and because of the imminent risk that it will deprive them of the ability to observe the Ramadan fast, which commences this year on July 8.”
The US Government has yet to clarify whether prisoners will continue to be force-fed during daylight hours in Ramadan. The Justice Department indicated to Reprieve on Friday that it would oppose any request to stop force-feeding, including daytime feeding during Ramadan.
Commenting, Guantanamo attorney and Reprieve Strategic Director Cori Crider said: “This crisis could end, if only President Obama would start transferring cleared people, as he has the power to do. But my clients have seen no action. They cannot take years of more uncertainty about their fate. If the Gitmo authorities intend to force-feed these people during the daytime in Ramadan, it will only add insult to injury. ”
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.