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Judge: US Must Force-Feed Guantanamo Detainee

District judge says forced to choose between inmate's life and 'great pain and suffering'

Force-feeding at Guantanamo. (Artwork by Natasha Mayers/ Creative Commons)

The U.S. 'must' force-feed a hunger striking Guantánamo detainee, according to a U.S. federal judge who late Thursday night lifted a temporary restraining order against performing the process—widely considered a form of torture—on Syrian inmate Abu Wa'el Dhiab.

District judge Gladys Kessler said the decision was made because of the "very real probability" that Dhiab, who continues to be held at the detention facility despite having been cleared for release in 2009, might die.

While issuing the decision, Kessler slammed the Department of Defense for inflicting what she described as "unnecessary pain" on those being held—both through force-feeding and the practice of "Forcible Cell Extractions," which Kessler halted in a ruling last week.

"The Court is now faced with an anguishing Hobson’s choice," said Kessler. "Reissue another Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) despite the very real probability that Mr. Dhiab will die, because he has indicated a continuing desire to refuse to eat and/or drink liquids, or refuse to issue the TRO and allow the medical personnel on the scene to take the medical actions to keep Mr Dhiab alive, but at the possible cost of great pain and suffering."

The judge added: "Thanks to the intransigence of the Department of Defense, Mr Dhiab may well suffer unnecessary pain from certain enteral feeding practices and forcible cell extractions. However, the Court simply cannot let Mr Dhiab die."

According to UK-based human rights group Reprieve, during the Thursday hearing Kessler also indicated that on Saturday she will issue an order for the "speedy exchange of discovery" of the tapes documenting Dhiab's force-feeding, as well as other evidence, "in order to ensure that any suffering by Mr. Dhiab is not prolonged."

On Wednesday, according to the Guardian, Kessler had "brushed aside" objections by the Justice Department and ordered the government to produce 34 video tapes documenting the forcible removal of Dhiab from his cell as well as the inmate being force-fed.


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