Once secret video recordings of a Guantanamo detainee being force-fed by his U.S. captors must be released to lawyers for review, a U.S. federal judge ordered on Wednesday.
The ruling marks the first time the US government has been ordered to give detainees' lawyers videotapes of force-feedings and follows a protracted battle by the legal teams trying to defend those imprisoned at the off-shore prison against abuse.
Though specific to one detainee, a Syrian cleared for release named Abu Wa’el Dhiab, the development is a meaningful legal victory for those demanding an end to the inhumane treatment and endless detention of individuals at the facility.
"It is very encouraging that the rule of law is finally coming to Guantanamo, so that perhaps Mr. Dhiab’s situation can be resolved," said Cori Crider, strategic director of Reprieve, the UK-based human rights group that represents Dhiab and other prisoners. "While the photographic evidence of his abuse is secret, it will at least allow the judge to see what is happening to him.”
Amidst a wave of hunger strikes at the controversial detention center, Dhiab was among dozens of inmates who were strapped down and given what are called "enternal" feedings in which tubes are forced down their throats and pumped with a nutrient mixture. Human rights and legal experts contend the practice amounts to torture and detainees who have undergone the procedures have described it as intensely painful.
As the Guardian reports:
Before last week, the Defense Department did not even acknowledge that videotapes of its enteral feedings of hunger striking detainees – conducted by inserting a tube into the stomach through the nose – even existed.
But now the US government has conceded that there are 34 videos showing the forcible feeding of one detainee, The analogue video cassettes are part of a broader set of 136 videos showing Dhiab being forcibly removed from his cell by Guantánamo Bay guards bringing the hunger striker to be fed enterally.
District court judge Gladys Kessler, of the Washington DC circuit, rejected an argument from the government that the tapes were irrelevant to Dhiab’s unusual lawsuit, which seeks to get a federal judge to set the conditions of his military confinement, which Dhiab considers amount to torture.