United States — On Thursday the Obama administration announced its intention to appeal a federal judge’s order to release video tapes from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The videos show a former detainee being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed.
In October 2014, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled the Obama administration had to unseal video tapes related to the force-feeding of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was still being held without charge at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Dhiab was kidnapped by the Pakistani government in 2002 before he was handed over to the United States on suspicion of terrorism. At the end of 2014, after twelve years behind bars without trial, Abu Wa’el Dhiab was finally released to Uruguay. The violence and forced-feeding procedures have caused permanent damage to his health and he is now confined to a wheelchair.
The videos in question show Dhiab subjected to violent “forced cell extraction” and force-feeding. The force-feeding sessions began after he refused to eat. Dhiab’s lawyers allege he was subject to this process over 1,300 times. He had been protesting his treatment and conditions at the prison by participating in an ongoing hunger strike in 2013. The strike grew to 100 detainees in the facility at one point.
After several appeals and delays, Judge Kessler gave the Obama administration until January 22, 2016 to release 11 hours of footage. However, on Thursday, lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice said they will appeal the judge’s order.
“In a notice filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., lawyers for the Justice Department said that they would appeal the judge’s order to release the tapes. The government has previously said that the videos are properly classified, and that if released, they might ‘inflame Muslim sensitivities overseas.’”
“It’s disappointing that — yet again — Obama’s lawyers have suppressed the evidence that shows most eloquently why the president is right, and Guantánamo ought to close,” Cori Crider, an attorney with the human rights group Reprieve, said in a statement. Crider, who has seen the tapes, said they ‘would make your blood run cold.”
There are currently still 91 detainees incarcerated at Guantánamo.
The Washington Post previously reported that Judge Kessler called the abuse of prisoners held without charges a “burning, controversial issue in this country.”
“The importance of releasing the videotapes to the public in order to ‘enlighten the citizenry’ and ‘improve perceptions of the proceedings fairness,’ cannot be overstated,” he said.