On May 16, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler issued an order temporarily preventing the military from force-feeding (also called ‘enteral feeding’) an inmate at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay. Last year Abu Wa’el Dhiab petitioned seeking to block his force feeding there during the Ramadan holiday.
Dhiab’s petition was initially rejected by the same judge. Politico reports that in “July of last year, Kessler threw out Dhiab’s petition, saying she had no authority to consider it.
However, she urged President Barack Obama to act to ‘address’ complaints about the force-feeding practice.”
In dismissing the case, Kessler wrote, “Even though this Court is obligated to dismiss the Application for lack of jurisdiction, and therefore lacks any authority to rule on Petitioner’s request, there is an individual who does have the authority to address the issue.”
However, in February of this year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said judges do have authority to consider petitions challenging conditions of confinement at Guantanamo. In April, Dhiab filed another petition, and on May 2 Judge Kessler set a hearing date of May 21. The temporary order, which states, “Respondents are temporarily restrained from any Forcible Cell Extractions of Petitioner for purposes of enteral feeding and any enteral feeding of Petitioner.”
If this preliminary order is any indicator of the final ruling, it does seem that it will be a minor victory for inmates rights. It does seem odd that inmates would need to fight to prevent prison officials from violating medical ethics and international law. In another victory for inmates rights, Pentagon officials have said they are working with the Federal Bureau of Prisons on a plan to transfer Private Manning to a civilian prison so she can get treatment for her gender disorder. The AP reports, multiple military doctors have diagnosed Manning “with gender dysphoria, the sense of being a woman in a man’s body.
By November, a military doctor there had approved a treatment plan, including hormone therapy, but it was sent higher up the chain of command for consideration,” adding “Some officials have said privately that keeping the soldier in a military prison and unable to have treatment could amount to cruel and unusual punishment.”
These situations, and others like them, raise questions about how inmates are treated. Should prison officials be allowed to use force to keep an inmate alive? Is it justifiable to use force to prevent an inmate from causing harm to himself? Should inmates be given medical care? If so, to what extent, and who should pay?
While I have opinions on these questions, I hope that a dialogue can happen on a larger scale.
And that such dialogue can change existing policies to allow for more freedom.