Federal Judge Deals Major Blow to 'Years-Long Effort to Oppress Gitmo Prisoners'

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Common Dreams

Federal Judge Deals Major Blow to 'Years-Long Effort to Oppress Gitmo Prisoners'

Federal District Court judge orders halt to force-feeding, Forcible Cell Extraction of prisoner; orders video evidence must be kept.

(Photo: Justin Norman/flickr)

In a decision welcomed as "a major crack in Guantanamo's years-long effort to oppress prisoners," a federal judge on Friday ordered the United States to halt the force-feeding and "Forcible Cell Extractions" of a prisoner at the notorious offshore prison.

The order from District Court Judge Gladys Kessler also requires the U.S. to preserve videotapes of the FCEs and force-feedings of the inmate, Abu Wa'el Dhiab.

Forcible Cell Extractions or FCEs refer to when a team of guards forcibly remove from his cell a prisoner who refuses to submit to the torturous process of force-feeding.

According to Reprieve, a UK-based rights group that represents 15 Guantanamo prisoners, including Dhiab, the 42-year old Syrian was arrested in 2002 in Pakistani, where he and his family were living, and was turned over the the United States.

He has spent over a decade languishing at the prison, was never charged and was cleared for release in 2009. He is depressed and wheelchair-bound, the group says.

As we reported earlier this week,

the Department of Defense acknowledged this week for the first time that it possesses videos depicting the force-feeding of inmates—a highly controversial process that has been condemned as torture and a violation of international law by the United Nations human rights office.

But Lawyers for the Obama administration had dismissed as "frivolous" Dhiab's legal attempts to prevent the destruction of videotape evidence of this FCEs and force-feedings.

As Charlie Savage noted in his reporting for the New York Times, Judge Kessler is the same judge who last year in a ruling said it was "perfectly clear" that "force-feeding is a painful, humiliating and degrading process."

Kessler's order delivered Friday "is a major crack in Guantanamo's years-long effort to oppress prisoners and to exercise total control over information about the prison," stated Reprieve attorney for Abu Wa'el Dhiab, Cori Crider.

"Dhiab is cleared for release and should have been returned to his family years ago. He is on hunger strike because he feels he has no other option left. I am glad Judge Kessler has taken this seriously, and we look forward to our full day in court to expose the appalling way Dhiab and others have been treated," Crider stated.

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