Al Adahi, et al v Barack H. Obama, et al

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Judge OK's use of Guantánamo forced-feeding chair

A federal judge accepted a government argument that guards strapping hunger-strikers into a feeding chair is safe and humane.


A federal judge refused Wednesday to stop Guantánamo guards from strapping hunger strikers into a restraint chair in a decision that named President Barack Obama, not George W. Bush, as the unlawful detention petition's target.

''Significant harm could befall medical and security staff at Guantánamo Bay if the injunction is granted,'' U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler wrote in her 24-page ruling, which accepts the Pentagon's argument that its forced-feeding regime is humane.

Two Yemenis had sought an injunction against use of the chair as part of their habeas corpus petition.

One, Mohammed Bawazir, has fasted on-again, off-again for years to protest his confinement. But, his lawyers argued, the 29-year-old Yemeni has never resisted his tube feedings and did not need to be confined to a restraint chair.

The second Yemeni detainee hunger striker, Zahir Hamdoon, 29, asked last month to join the motion.

As of Wednesday, 41 of the 245 captives at Guantánamo were on a hunger strike, said Navy Cmdr. Pauline Storum.

Of them, 35 were being force-fed through a regime that has guards strap a shackled captive into a chair and Velcro his head to a metal restraint.

Camp staff then tether a tube through the man's nose and down to his stomach to pump in a protein shake twice a day. Each feeding lasts about an hour.

Both detainees claimed they were left strapped to the chair much longer than an hour, and the judge cited prison camp medical records that backed the claim.

Still, Kessler's ruling echoed a frequently offered argument by Guantánamo staff: ``The restraint-chair is used to keep both the detainee and the staff as safe as possible.''

Kessler also noted: ``Respondents are acting out of a need to preserve the life of the petitioners rather than letting them die from their hunger strikes.''

Reflecting the change of administration, the court on Constitution Avenue renamed the case as Al Adahi, et al v Barack H. Obama, et al.

Bush was president when the case was started, and the judge noted her sympathy for the detainees' plight, even as she ruled against them.

''From all accounts -- those presented in classified information the court has had access to, in affidavits of counsel and in reports from journalists and human rights groups -- their living conditions at Guantánamo Bay have been harsh,'' she wrote.

The Pentagon has long maintained that conditions are humane at Guantánamo, and said it has investigated and corrected occasional episodes of mistreatment through the years.

The Navy's No. 2 admiral was at the prison camps last week, by order of Obama, checking the prison camps' compliance with the humane treatment provisions of the Geneva Conventions.

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This page contains a single entry published on February 12, 2009 10:49 AM.

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