Hundreds of videos of force-feedings of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been ordered to be preserved by a United States district court judge. The judge has also ordered, for the first time, that the government halt the force-feeding of a prisoner temporarily.
Until May 21, Judge Gladys Kessler ordered that the government be “temporarily restrained” from “any Forcible Cell Extractions” (FCEs) of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Lebanese prisoner who has been cleared for release by President Barack Obama’s review task force since 2009.
FCEs involve Guantanamo’s riot squad forcibly and often brutally removing prisoners from their cells in order to be force-fed by nurses and doctors after they are put in a restraint chair.
The government was also ordered to “preserve and maintain all relevant videotapes” of Dhiab’s FCEs for force-feedings and all video of Dhiab’s force-feedings from April 9, 2013, and February 19, 2014.
According to attorneys from the human rights organization, Reprieve, who are representing Dhiab in a lawsuit challenging force-feedings, government lawyers admitted “approximately 140 to 150 FCE videos of [Mr Dhiab] between April 9, 2013 and February 19, 2014” exist. The “vast majority of these videos are of FCEs in connection with enteral feeding or otherwise arguably related to enteral feeding.”
The judge additionally ordered that medical records for Dhiab from April 2013 to the end of December 2013 be provided to Reprieve attorneys.
Cori Crider, a Reprieve attorney representing Dhiab, told Firedoglake that JTF-GTMO has a history of “losing” inconvenient evidence. “During a prior case involving former Guantanamo prisoner Mustafa Ait Idir, Guantanamo authorities told a court “they had ‘lost’ a previously-acknowledged recording of Mr Ait Idir being assaulted by the ‘FCE,’” she said.
The order from the judge was “a major crack in Guantanamo’s years-long effort to oppress prisoners and to exercise total control over information about the prison,” Crider declared.
The government had resisted efforts to preserve video, calling Reprieve’s emergency motion “frivolous.” But the government apparently never offered any explicitly detailed assurance that the video would be preserved from destruction.