Three Guantánamo (GTMO) detainees had their plea to stop force-feeding during the holy month of Ramadan shot down in federal court today. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer noted her lack of jurisdiction over the case due to Congress’ blockade on federal courts reviewing “treatment and conditions of confinement” at GTMO. Despite Congress’ actions, Collyer stated that:
Even if the Court had jurisdiction to consider Petitioners’ motion for preliminary injunction, the motion would be denied due to failure to show likelihood of success on the merits and because the public interest and balance of harms weighs in favor of the Government
Judge Collyer aimed to justify her decision by writing:
Although framed as a motion to stop feeding via nasogastric tube, Petitioners’ real complaint is that the United States is not allowing them to commit suicide by starvation. They cite copious experts who state that a sane person should be allowed to choose starvation and death over life…. As his custodian, the United States cannot “allow” any person held in custody to starve himself to death. Whatever the medical ethics for a person at liberty, the United States as custodian has additional obligations. Numerous courts have recognized the Government’s affirmative duty to prevent suicide and to provide life-saving nutritional and medical care to persons in custody.
Last week, Judge Gladys Kessler reached a similar decision, though, when compared to Judge Collyer, Judge Kessler seemed relatively sympathetic:
Even though this Court is obligated to dismiss the Application for lack of jurisdiction, and therefore lack any authority to rule on Petitioner’s request, there is an individual who does have the authority to address the issue.
Judge Kessler was referring to President Obama, before going on to cite Article II, Section two of the Constitution, which stipulates the dual roles of President and Commander-In-Chief. Those dual roles in fact, give the President ample authority to address the issue at GTMO. Obama, during a public statement, stated the following in May:
Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. . . Is this who we are? Is that something that our founders foresaw? Is that the America that we want for our children? Our sense of Justice is stronger than that.
Despite the lofty declarations, Obama hasn’t stepped in to take preventative measures. Interestingly enough, the Commander-in-Chief himself ordered the force-feeding that same month. Following the order, Al-Jazeera exposed the force feeding procedure by publishing the manual online. The document delineates methods of restraints over extended periods, supervision, re-force feeding if vomit is induced, and so on. It was likely used as a guide during the filming of the visceral micro-doc featuring Muslim Rapper Yasiin Bey, also known as Mos Def.
The force-feeding procedures continue, violating international standards and human rights. Jon Eisenberg, the attorney representing the detainees, explained their intentions:
They don’t want to commit suicide. They want to protest their indefinite detention, and hunger striking is the only means of doing so.
Along with their freedom, any sense of self-determination has also been stripped from them, all without trial or evidence of crime.