Government to Respond Today to Gitmo Hobby Lobby Complaint

A federal judge has ordered the US government to explain by 6pm today (EST) why hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay should not be afforded the same religious rights as store chain Hobby Lobby.

The move comes after two detainees, Emad Hassan and Ahmed Rabbani, filed an emergency motion at the DC District Court court, saying that after last week’s Supreme Court decision, they — like corporations — were ‘persons’ with the right to religious freedom. Judge Gladys Kessler has ordered a hearing on the motion at10am (EST) this Thursday (July 10).

The two men, both detained at Guantánamo without charge or trial since 2002, brought the action after the prison’s military authorities prevented them from praying communally during Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims.

Previously, the government relied on a controversial interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to deny that Guantánamo detainees were ‘people’ under US law with the same religious free exercise rights as US citizens. It remains to be seen whether the government will adopt the same argument that detainees are legal ‘non-persons’ after the Hobby Lobby decision.

The detainees’ move comes alongside an ongoing legal challenge by several hunger-striking prisoners — including Mr Hassan and Mr Rabbani — to abusive force-feeding practices at the prison. A full hearing on that issue, in the same court, is expected before Labor Day.

Cori Crider, attorney for the men and a director at human rights organisation Reprieve, said: “Having held my clients without charge or trial for a dozen years, the authorities at Gitmo are now trying to break their will by denying even the most basic religious liberty — the right to pray with others of their faith. I look forward to the Obama Administration’s explanation of why, if Hobby Lobby is a person with religious rights, a Guantanamo detainee isn’t.”


Notes to editors

1. The next hearing on Mr Hassan and Mr Rabbani’s emergency motion is expected at 10am (EST) on Thursday July 10th at the DC District Court.

2. The motions can be accessed here (Emad Hassan and Ahmad Rabbani)

3. Details of the separate force-feeding case Dhiab v Obama can be accessed here.

4. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office (UK) / +44 207 553 8160.


Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.