A United States judge on Monday rejected a bid by a hunger-striking Guantanamo detainee to block force-feeding at the Cuban detention center, but said that the practice appears to violate international law and urged President Barack Obama to step in.
Authorities at the US military prison in southeastern Cuba said they were force-feeding 44 out of an estimated 120 prisoners who are on hunger strike.
Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Syrian participating in an ongoing protest, had sought an injunction. According to Reuters, he is one of four detainees to do so, the others being Algerian captives Ahmed Belbacha and Nabil Hadjarab, and Shaker Aamer, a Saudi prisoner with British residency.
All four were captured during counterterrorism operations but are among 86 prisoners cleared for release or transfer years ago.
Meanwhile, a motion filed by rights watchdog Reprieve on behalf of four detainees demands the immediate cessation of force-feeding, decrying it as "torture."
However, District Judge Gladys Kessler said that laws passed by Congress prevent her from intervening in aspects of detention at Gitmo, the Associated Press reported.
She said she was "obligated to dismiss the application for lack of jurisdiction."
However, she admonished the military's response to the hunger strike:
"It is perfectly clear from the statements of detainees, as well as the statements from the organizations just cited, that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating and degrading process."
She also cited Obama's speech of May 23, in which he referred to the force-feeding of terror suspects on hunger strike.
"Is that who we are?" Obama asked in his speech. "Is that the America we want to leave to our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that."
Kessler pointed out that the Constitution enshrines the president's status as commander of all US military forces.
"It would seem to follow, therefore, that the president of the United States, as commander-in-chief, has the authority — and power — to directly address the issue of force-feeding of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay."
Islamic community leaders, meantime, have also called on the Obama administration to rethink its policy of force-feeding Muslim detainees on hunger strike during the month-long fast of Ramadan, which began Monday.
The Guardian quoted Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman of the largest US Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, the Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as saying:
"We believe it's wrong to force feed at any time but it is particularly upsetting to do it through Ramadan."