For Immediate Release
US Government Won't Fight Force-Feeding Ruling, Justice Department Says
New York, NY - Lawyers for the US Justice Department today declined to contest a landmark judgment that gives Guantánamo Bay prisoners the right to contest unlawful conditions of confinement - including the military's abusive force-feeding practices - in federal court.
In Aamer v. Obama, handed down Feb 11, 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit declined to stop force-feeding, saying more evidence was required. But the court also said for the first time that Guantánamo prisoners had the right to challenge illegal treatment at Guantánamo Bay.
Prisoners have since submitted extensive additional evidence that the current practice, which involves a 110-cm feeding tube and a multiple-point restraint chair, is inhumane. DC District Judge Gladys Kessler said in an opinion last summer: "It is perfectly clear from the statements of detainees, as well as the statements from the organizations just cited, that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating, and degrading process."
In an e-mail to counsel for Shaker Aamer, the Justice Department indicated it would not be seeking rehearing of this decision by today's deadline.
Today's decision by DOJ clears the way for challenges to force-feeding brought by Mr. Aamer and other detainees. It may also ease the path of other complaints about unlawful conditions at Guantánamo, such as the pending appeal to the policy of 'scrotum searches' that interfere with the attorney-client relationship.
Eric Lewis, partner at Lewis Baach pllc and Chair of Reprieve US, said: "The government has taken the right position here and we hope that we will have cooperation in eliminating the gratuitous cruelty with which detainees asserting their human dignity have been treated."
Cori Crider, strategic director at Reprieve and counsel for the prisoners, said: "Wiser heads prevailed at the Justice Department today when they let the Court of Appeal's decision stand. I only wish that wisdom extended to the JTF-GTMO authorities, who continue to force-feed my clients in a gratuitously abusive manner. We look forward to a proper airing of the facts in federal court at last."
Jon Eisenberg, an attorney who argued the appeal, said: "We anticipate a quick return to the district court, and we are confident the judges of that court will expeditiously put a stop to the abusive and torturous force-feeding practices that happening right now at Guantanamo Bay."
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.