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Guantánamo hunger strike: Force-feedings won’t clash with Ramadan, US says (+video)

US government lawyers defended the policy of force-feeding hunger-strikers at Guantánamo and said the detainees would be fed before dawn or after sunset, in accordance with Ramadan.

By Staff writer / July 3, 2013

The US flag flies over Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, in March.

Bob Strong/Reuters/File

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Washington

Government lawyers on Wednesday defended the US military’s policy of force-feeding Guantánamo detainees engaged in a long-running hunger strike at the US naval base in Cuba.

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They said plans to continue the force-feeding in the weeks ahead would not clash with the Islamic fast during the month of Ramadan, which is set to begin on Monday.

The government lawyers said the staff schedule at Guantánamo would be altered so that feedings would take place pre-dawn or after sunset in full accord with Ramadan tradition.

Muslims worldwide celebrate the month of Ramadan by forgoing food and water from sunup to sundown. Muslim faithful are permitted to eat and drink before dawn and after sunset.

The lawyers also denied that the government had forcibly administered an anti-nausea drug to any of four complaining detainees at Guantánamo.

The comments came in response to a request on Sunday by lawyers for four Guantánamo detainees that a federal judge in Washington block the US government from force-feeding detainees in violation of the Ramadan fast.

They also accused the US of administering the drug Reglan to their clients. They charged that prolonged use of the drug carried dangerous side-effects, including depression, thoughts of suicide, and suicide.

US District Judge Rosemary Collyer gave the government until noon Wednesday to reply to the injunction request.

Justice Department lawyers told the judge in a 20-page filing on Wednesday that the request on behalf of the detainees was an attempt to litigate issues concerning conditions of confinement and treatment of detainees at Guantánamo.

Under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress chose to withdraw any jurisdiction of the federal courts to consider issues involving the detention, treatment, or conditions of confinement of an alien detained as an enemy combatant at Guantánamo. As such, the issues were beyond the court’s power to address, the lawyers said.

Nonetheless, the lawyers also defended US policies undertaken at Guantánamo in responding to the hunger strike. They said the policies are appropriate and humane.

Of the 166 detainees at Guantánamo, the government says 106 are engaged in some form of hunger strike. Forty-five have been designated for forced-feedings by Guantánamo staff.

“It is the policy of the Department of Defense to support the preservation of life and health by appropriate clinical means and standard medical intervention, in a humane manner, and in accordance with all applicable standards,” the government lawyers said.

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