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Rabbani v. Trump

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 29, 2017

Ahmmed Ghulam Rabbani, Petitioner,
v.
Donald J. Trump, et al. Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION: DENYING PETITIONER'S EMERGENCY MOTION FOR AN INDEPENDENT MEDICAL EVALUATION: AND TREATMENT AND MEDICAL RECORDS

          HON. ROYCE LAMBERTH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Summary

         The petitioner, Ahmmed Ghulam Rabbani, is a detainee at the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay. He has been on hunger strike for four of the last thirteen years. There is some question as to whether or not the petitioner is currently hunger striking, [1] but the Court will, for the most part, assume that his hunger strike continues to this day. For much of the time during which he was hunger striking, the petitioner was subjected to involuntary enteral feedings (force-feedings). In September 2017, the new Senior Medical Officer (SMO) of the Joint Medical Group (JMG) at Guantanamo Bay determined that the petitioner no longer needed these involuntary feedings and ordered that they cease. The petitioner argues that this course of action threatens his life and constitutes deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment as set forth in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976).

         The petitioner has now filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction seeking the following relief under either the doctrine of Estelle and its progeny or pursuant to the All Writs Act, 28U.S.C.§ 1651(a):

(1) The production of his physical and mental records since July 2017;
(2) A medical evaluation to be performed by a medical examiner chosen by the petitioner's counsel;
(3) An order directing that the petitioner's chosen medical examiner be permitted to provide the petitioner with any medical treatment the examiner deems necessary and appropriate and that the medical staff at Guantanamo Bay facilitate that treatment;
(4) The production of daily reports about the petitioner's physical and mental health;
(5) An order requiring the respondents to follow procedures governing medical care provided to hunger-striking detainees that the petitioner alleges were in place prior to September 20, 2017-i.e., that the- medical staff at Guantanamo Bay resume force-feeding the petitioner;
(6) An expedited briefing schedule.

         Having reviewed all of the briefings and exhibits submitted to it, the Court will DENY the petitioner's motion in its entirety. While the Court finds that the petitioner has a serious medical condition, the Court also finds that the petitioner is unlikely to be able to show that the medical staff at Guantanamo has been deliberately indifferent to that condition. Therefore, his deliberate-indifference claim does not support preliminary injunctive relief. The Court also finds that relief pursuant to the All Writs Act is inappropriate because the petitioner is not likely to be able to show that his life and health are in danger such that this Court's jurisdiction is threatened.

         Background

         The petitioner, Ahmmed Ghulam Rabbani, is a detainee at the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, He has been on hunger strike for four of the hist thirteen years. There is some question as to whether or not the petitioner is currently hunger striking, but the Court will, for the most part, assume that his hunger strike continues to this day. For much of the time during which he was hunger striking, the petitioner was subjected to involuntary enteral feedings (force-feedings).

         In September 2017, the new Senior Medical Officer (SMO) of the Joint Medical Group (JMG) at Guantanamo Bay determined that the petitioner no longer needed these involuntary feedings and ordered that they cease. Up to this point, the petitioner and the respondents largely agree. But beyond this point, the petitioner and the respondents diverge drastically, offering wholly different accounts of what policies concerning hunger strikers are currently in place at Guantanamo and of the current state of the petitioner's health/ So different are these accounts that the Court will provide separate summaries of them. I. The Petitioner's Account The petitioner alleges that, as of September 19, 2017, the new SMO at Guantanamo enacted a new policy under which the medical staff would no longer provide any involuntary enteral feedings to hunger strikers, leaving them with only the options of eating normal food or starving to death. In addition, the SMO ordered that the medical staff cease monitoring the hunger strikers, leaving them without any medical care. The petitioner does not wish to end his hunger strike, but he also does not wish to die. Beyond that, the petitioner claims that even if he wanted to end his hunger strike, he could not do so because he is entirely unable to eat normal food because it would cause him to vomit and because he suffers from bleeding, indigestion, colon problems, ulcers, and other ailments. As such, the petitioner asserts that the end of involuntary feedings is, for him, a death sentence. He cannot eat, and so he must receive involuntary feedings or die.

         The petitioner alleges that his weight as of September 19, 2017, was 103 pounds. By September 26, he weighed a mere 97 pounds. He alleges that he has signs of organ failure. He alleges that he has fallen down and lost muscle control on many occasions. He says that he suffers from heart arrhythmia, insomnia, hypertension, and chronic mental health issues. In short, the petitioner alleges that without immediate injunctive relieve he will soon be dead.

         The petitioner argues that this course of action threatens his life and constitutes deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment as set forth in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). As such he has Hied an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction seeking the following relief under either the doctrine of Estelle and its progeny or pursuant to the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a):

(1) The production of his physical and mental records since July 2017;
(2) A medical evaluation to be performed by a medical examiner chosen by the petitioner's counsel;
(3) An order directing that the petitioner's chosen medical examiner, be permitted to provide the petitioner with any medical treatment the examiner deems necessary and appropriate and that the medical staff at Guantanamo Bay facilitate that treatment;
(4) The production of daily reports about the petitioner's physical and mental health;
(5) An order requiring the respondents to follow procedures governing medical care provided to hunger-striking detainees that the petitioner alleges were in place prior to September 20, 2017-i.e., that the medical staff at Guantanamo Bay resume force-feeding the petitioner;
(6) An expedited briefing schedule.

         II. The Government's Account

         (Xxxxx)

         The petitioner was one of the detainees whose status on the list was reviewed. In this review, the SMO noted that the petitioner's weight had been relatively stable at around 102 pounds for the past year (October 2016-October 2017). The SMO also noted that the petitioner had been observed eating solid food on a daily basis (despite his claims of being on a hunger strike) and making smoothies for himself. The SMO estimated that the petitioner's daily caloric intake was approximately 1200 kilocalories per day. The SMO also noted that (contrary to the petitioner's assertions) the petitioner was physically and mentally active-climbing stairs; walking unassisted; participating in recreational time; engaging in conversation with the SMO, behavioral health unit staff, and others; etc.

         Based on all of these observations, the SMO determined that the petitioner was not malnourished and that involuntary feedings were no longer necessary to prevent death or serious harm to the petitioner. Therefore, the petitioner was removed from the list of detainees approved for involuntary feedings.

         The Government also denies that medical monitoring of the petitioner ceased once the involuntary feedings ceased. According to the SMO, the petitioner was, after his removal from the list, at a minimum given daily visual evaluations by medical staff. The Government also claims that it offered the petitioner with specific medical procedures tailored to his medical needs, such as endoscopic examinations of his colon. But the Government asserts that the petitioner refused all medical care offered to him, including dental care, gastroenterology evaluations, and even the provision of vitamins, After the petitioner filed his motion, though, the petitioner was examined by ...


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