WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US judge on Monday rejected a legal bid by a Guantanamo detainee to have his force-feeding blocked, but urged President Barack Obama to review the issue to see if the controversial practice should end.
Authorities at the military prison at the US naval base in south-eastern Cuba say they are force-feeding 44 inmates out of an estimated 120 prisoners who are on hunger strike.
US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that laws passed by Congress prevent her from intervening in aspects of detention at Guantanamo.
"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." Judge Kessler cited the president's speech of May 23, in which he referred to the force-feeding of terror suspects on hunger strike.
"Is that who we are?" Mr Obama asked in his speech. "Is that the America we want to leave to our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that." Judge Kessler in her ruling also cited the US Constitution enshrining 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," she said.
A motion filed by rights watchdog Reprieve on behalf of four detainees demands the immediate cessation of force-feeding, decrying it as "torture." Judge Kessler said main petitioner Jihad Dhiab sought rapid review of the application because he feared that force-feeding during the day would interfere with his fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins on July 8.
The case is nearly identical to one in 2009 which was also rejected by the same court.
But in the current application, said Judge Kessler, Dhiab laid out in detail "what appears to be a consensus that force-feeding of prisoners violates Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment."