Attorneys of the United States Department of Justice argued that the controversial practice of force-feeding Guantanamo Bay inmates on hunger strike, is “safe, necessary and humane” as a three-day hearing on the treatment of inmates at the prison ended on Wednesday, according to media reports.
Prisoners are only subjected to force-feeding if they drop to 85 percent of their ideal weight, government attorneys reportedly said, referring to the hunger strikes as “long-term non-religious fasting.” This is the first-ever court challenge to the practice of force-feeding at Guantanamo, according to media reports.
“The FCE (Forcible Cell Extraction) will use the minimum force to help prevent any injury to the detainee during the FCE process,” DOJ attorney Andrew Warden reportedly said, adding that FCE, which involves “non-compliant prisoners” being taken out of their cells and force-fed through a nasal tube, was used as “a last resort after attempts of verbal persuasion.”
The case was brought to the court by Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian national who has spent most of his 12 years of confinement on a hunger strike protesting his internment without being charged with a crime.
Dhiab, who has said the practice of force-feeding is abusive and torturous, reportedly asked the court to stop prison authorities from repeatedly removing and reinserting his feeding tubes and forcibly removing him from his cell for feeding.
Warden, however, argued that while inmates were usually allowed to be seated on a normal chair and watch television during the procedures, Dhiab’s history of violence and non-compliance necessitated the use of restraint chairs, where a detainee has his head and limbs tied down, according to an Al Jazeera report.
The closing arguments for the case are scheduled to be submitted on Oct. 17, according to media reports. While most of the hearing was open to the public, against the wishes of the justice department, it reportedly ended behind closed doors, with the court watching classified videotapes of Dhiab’s treatment.
President Barack Obama had signed an executive order in 2009 to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba within a year. However, five years later, the prison still remains open, housing nearly 150 inmates, many of whom have reportedly resorted to hunger strikes to protest their detention without being charged.