Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hungry for a juicy wrongful death lawsuit?

The NYT reports on the U.S. using force feedings to keep hunger strikers alive.

United States military authorities have taken tougher measures to force-feed detainees engaged in hunger strikes at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after concluding that some were determined to commit suicide to protest their indefinite confinement, military officials have said.

In recent weeks, the officials said, guards have begun strapping recalcitrant detainees into "restraint chairs," sometimes for hours a day, to feed them through tubes and prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward. Detainees who refuse to eat have also been placed in isolation for extended periods in what the officials said was an effort to keep them from being encouraged by other hunger strikers.

The measures appear to have had dramatic effects. The chief military spokesman at Guantánamo, Lt. Col. Jeremy M. Martin, said yesterday that the number of detainees on hunger strike had dropped to 4 from 84 at the end of December.

That sounds like success. But the fat lady hasn't sung yet. (Actually the "fat lady" is a colorful metaphor for the phalanx of lawyers who have taken the detainees' cause to heart).

Lawyers who have visited clients in recent weeks criticized the latest measures, particularly the use of the restraint chair, as abusive.

"It is clear that the government has ended the hunger strike through the use of force and through the most brutal and inhumane types of treatment," said Thomas B. Wilner, a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling in Washington, who last week visited the six Kuwaiti detainees he represents. "It is a disgrace."

Huh? Keeping his clients alive is a disgrave? You know what those self-same lawyers would be doing if any of those prisoners starve themselves to death?

Yeah, that's right. Filing huge lawsuits, with big punitive damage awards in view, against Uncle Sam for the most brutal and inhumane failure to protect the lives of their prisoners.

We live in a strange country.


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