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For immediate release: Wed, April 1, 2015
Release Gitmo force-feeding videos, media outlets tell Obama
Sixteen major media organizations and human rights organization Reprieve have today asked a US federal court to dismiss a White House attempt to suppress classified videos of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay.
In a series of filings today at the DC Court of Appeals, lawyers for Reprieve and the media outlets – which include the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press and Reuters – asked the court to dismiss an appeal by the Obama Administration against a landmark ruling last year ordering the videotapes to be made public. The October 2014 ruling in Dhiab v Obama was the first of its kind, and came after the media organizations asked for the tapes to be made public under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Objecting, the Obama Administration has insisted that the tapes – in their entirety – should remain classified due to ‘national security’ concerns.
The videotapes show the force-feeding and ‘forced cell extraction’ (FCE) of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was repeatedly force-fed and ‘FCEed’ until his release in December 2014. Mr Dhiab, who was cleared for release in 2009, was one of several detainees who took up a peaceful hunger strike in early 2013 to protest their ongoing detention without charge. The existence of the footage emerged in the course of litigation in which he sought to challenge the abusive methods used to force-feed him. In a key ruling in that litigation, the judge, Gladys Kessler, condemned those methods as “painful, humiliating and degrading.”
Mr Dhiab’s Reprieve lawyers are the only people outside the US government to have seen the footage and have described it as ‘highly disturbing’, but are forbidden under classification rules from revealing its contents.
Several detainees at Guantanamo continue to be subjected to daily force-feedings and FCEs.
Commenting, Alka Pradhan, Reprieve US counsel and one of Mr Dhiab’s lawyers, said: “It is a national scandal that the Obama Administration, which continuously proclaims itself transparent, is once again crying ‘national security’ in a ham-fisted attempt to hide the brutal force-feedings and other abuses taking place at Guantanamo as we speak. President Obama says he wants to close Guantanamo – but his administration is continuing its abuse of prisoners there, who have never been charged or tried. The American people deserve to see these tapes, and judge for themselves what is being done in their name.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve US: +1 917 855 8064 / firstname.lastname@example.org or Reprieve UK: +44 207 553 8140
2. Background and a full timeline of the forcefeeding litigation can be found at the Reprieve US website, here.