US Hands Redacted Torture Videos to Court, But Will World Ever See Them?

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US Hands Redacted Torture Videos to Court, But Will World Ever See Them?

DOJ releases sealed videos after delay tactics and outright refusal

"I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed," said Abu Wa'el Dhiab, formerly incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay. (Photo: casmaron/flickr/cc)

"I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed," said Abu Wa'el Dhiab, formerly incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay. (Photo: casmaron/flickr/cc)

After repeated stalling and refusal, the U.S. government has finally handed over to a federal court eight redacted videos showing force-feedings at Guantánamo Bay—but under seal, the Guardian revealed Monday.

The limited release occurred August 31 following numerous rulings from federal judge Gladys Kessler ordering the release of tapes that contain damning footage of the force-feeding of Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Syrian father of three held in U.S. custody for 12 years without charge or trial. After spending much of his Guantánamo Bay detention on hunger strike, Dhiab was finally freed to Uruguay in December 2014, where he currently resides.

"I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed."
—Abu Wa'el Dhiab, formerly incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay

With the help of the U.K.-based legal charity Reprieve, Dhiab launched a challenge against the U.S. government for the repeated force-feedings, which he says were used as punishment for his peaceful protest. Force-feeding of hunger strikers is widely regarded as a form of torture and a violation of international law, including by the United Nations human rights office.

In 2014, prominent media organizations, including Reuters, the New York Times, and the Guardian, demanded that all 32 torture videos be released for the public interest. According to journalist Spencer Ackerman, if their legal bid is successful, "the version of the tapes the Department of Justice (DoJ) has turned over is likely to be what the public will see."

Cori Crider, a Reprieve lawyer who represents Dhiab, declared in June 2014, "While I'm not allowed to discuss the contents of these videos, I can say that I had trouble sleeping after viewing them."

"I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed," Dhiab said in a statement upon his release. "If the American people stand for freedom, they should watch these tapes. If they truly believe in human rights, they need to see these tapes."

Dhiab is currently confined to a wheelchair due to the abuse he sustained under U.S. custody, according to Reprieve. He has not yet reunited with his wife and children, who are refugees of Syria's ongoing conflict.

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