MIAMI — The U.S. government on Wednesday defended the force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantanamo, urging a judge to reject a legal challenge to the practice filed by four prisoners taking part in an ongoing protest at the U.S. base in Cuba.
Feeding the prisoners with a nasogastric tube is to prevent their death is "humane," done in a way to minimize any pain, lawyers for the Department of Justice wrote in a legal brief filed in federal court in Washington.
The Justice Department filing urged the court not to issue a preliminary injunction against the feeding procedure, saying it would amount to authorizing "a detainee to commit suicide by starvation."
Lawyers for four prisoners on hunger strike filed the challenge Sunday, arguing that feeding the men against their will was a violation of their human rights and served no legitimate interest. They also said it would deprive them of their religious right to the traditional daytime fast during the upcoming Muslim holy period of Ramadan.
The U.S. military intends to feed all prisoners, including those on hunger strike, before dawn and after sunset during Ramadan to accommodate the men's religious practices, according to the court filing.
Lawyers for the four prisoners plan to file a response to the Justice Department on Friday.
The military says 106 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo are on hunger strike, with up to 45 being force-fed to prevent dangerous weight loss.