For Immediate Release
US Govt Refuses to Guarantee no Daytime Force-Feeding During Ramadan
Claims ‘public interest lies with maintaining the status quo’ at Gitmo
WASHINGTON - Responding to a court case brought by Guantanamo detainees against force-feeding, the Obama administration has failed to guarantee that it will not be carried out during the day in Ramadan, which begins this Monday.
Lawyers for the US Government also argued that the “public interest lies with maintaining the status quo” – despite President Obama’s recent claim that the prison’s continuing existence is “not in the best interest of the American people.”
Lawyers for the President say that Joint Task Force Guantanamo “plans” to feed all detainees, including those being force-fed, before dawn and after sunset, “absent any…operational issues.” However, they fail to make any clear commitment in their response, filed with a federal court in Washington DC today, that there will be no force-feeding during daylight hours.
The President’s lawyers also argue that the detainees bringing the case – Shaker Aamer, Nabil Hadjarab, Ahmed Belbacha and Abu Wa’el Dhiab – are not “persons” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and therefore not protected by it.
In addition, they reveal that a key reason to maintain force-feeding is to preserve “discipline within the detention facility.”
Counsel for the men are Cori Crider, Strategic Director at human rights charity Reprieve, and Jon B Eisenberg, an appellate attorney in Oakland, California.
Commenting on the US Government’s opposition to the motion, Cori Crider said: “These are more weasel words from the Obama administration – they say they have ‘no plans’ to force-feed during the day in Ramadan, but give no guarantees. Meanwhile, on the eve of America’s Independence Day, they ride rough-shod over the fundamental right of people to choose what goes into their bodies. ”
Jon Eisenberg said: “The Obama administration argues here that ‘the public interest lies with maintaining the status quo.’ The status quo is that these men are being held indefinitely without any sort of trial, even though they were cleared for release years ago. Force-feeding to maintain that sort of ‘status quo,’ which is a clear violation of human rights, is barbaric. Consider the irony of the Obama administration arguing here that the Guantanamo Bay detainees are not ‘persons’ within the scope of U.S. law guaranteeing religious freedom, in a post-Citizens United world where even corporations are endowed with legal personhood.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Copies of the documents are available on request. The US Government lawyers’ reference to the detainees as not being “persons” can be found on p18, note 5. The need for force-feeding to preserve discipline is stated on p14. Issues around force-feeding during Ramadan are on pp17-18.
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.