US judge lifts ban on Guantanamo prisoner force-feeding ‘not to let him die’

May 24, 2014

US District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered that her previous temporary restraining order to stop forcibly feeding Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab will not be reissued, due to the prisoner's physical condition 'swiftly deteriorating' due to a hunger strike.

The ruling follows a decision barring the Pentagon from force-feeding the 42-year-old Dhiab, who has gone on prolonged hunger strikes while being held for 12 years without a trial. The prisoner has been force-fed by the military and filed a petition to stop the enteral feeding practice. 

The procedure involves strapping a detainee into a chair and pouring a liquid nutritional supplement right into the stomach through a nasal tube. In a legal filing from Dhiab he describes the pain caused by the method: “Sometimes the way the MP [military policeman] holds my head chokes me, and with all the nerves in the nose the tube passing the nose is like torture." 

The judge did not keep her previous order to stop Dhiab's sufferings in place as a legal fight unfolds, according to her ruling, in order to keep him alive. “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,” Kessler’s ruling reads. 

The federal judge has 'strongly suggested' to consider alternative ways to keep the prisoner alive. "Mr. Dhiab has indicated his willingness to be internally fed, if it could be done at the hospital in Guantanamo Bay, if he could be spared the agony of having the feeding tubes inserted and removed for each feeding, and if he could be spared the pain and discomfort of the restraint chair," Kessler said in the ruling. Although, the military command overseeing Guantanamo detentions deny the procedure is abusive and “the Department of Defense refused to make these compromises.” 

The recent rulings promise to keep attention on the controversial force-feeding practices, as the federal court ordered the potentially embarrassing videos depicting the treatment to be released. On Friday, Kessler said in a scheduling order that US government must reveal videos of the practice criticized as abusive, to be viewed by the detainee's lawyers by June 13 - the first time a non-government official will be permitted to see the secret recordings. 

Guantanamo prisoners have engaged in hunger strikes for years. Abu Wa’el Dhiab was recommended for transfer from Guantanamo more than four years ago. At one point, when it appeared to him release might be imminent, he suspended his hunger strike for a brief period. He later resumed the protest against confinement.

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