A legal challenge to the U.S. military's force feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay found more traction than many might have expected at a federal appeals court Friday, but after about 45 minutes of oral arguments it still appeared doubtful that the court would move in the direction of halting the practice.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Judges David Tatel and Thomas Griffith both expressed skepticism about some of the government's positions in the case. The third judge on the panel, Stephen Williams, seemed inclined to endorse the government's current practices
A hunger strike by Guantanamo prisoners appeared to reach its peak in July, when officials said more than 100 of the 164 prisoners were refusing to eat and about 45 were being force fed. Detainee lawyers said the number of prisoners protesting was higher than being reported by the military. However, the reported number of hunger strikers dropped steadily in recent months, with only 15 men listed Friday as hunger striking and subject to force feeding, according to a military spokesman.
Tatel suggested repeatedly that the D.C. Circuit's prior precedents, and those of several other circuits, indicate that habeas corpus cases can be pursued about conditions of confinement and not simply whether a person is being lawfully detained.