The world will soon be able to see the truth about the force-feedings at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, after a federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. government to release videotapes of one prisoner being subjected to the process.
The 28 tapes show U.S. military personnel force-feeding Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian detainee who was a part of the hunger strike that began in March of last year and grew to include 106 men at its height, with 46 of them fed through the intrusive “enteral feeding” process.
Sixteen media organization joined efforts to bring the footage to light when they filed suit in June to gain access to unclassified versions of the footage, and to keep court hearings for Dhiab’s lawsuit to stop his force-feedings open to the public. That court battle is set to begin on Oct. 6.
In her decision, Judge Gladys Kessler said, “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. 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.”
Kessler ordered that all identifying features of people in the videos that are not Dhiab, such as names, faces, and voices, be redacted before the tapes are released.
Despite the fact that force-feeding is considered torture by human rights groups, and the World Medical Association considers it an ethical violation for a doctor to participate in it, the U.S. has refused to stop administering the feedings. One Navy nurse was recently removed from duty at Guantanamo after refusing to assist in the force-feeding of prisoners.
In the process, the detainee is restrained in a chair, a tube is inserted through his nose and threaded down his throat, and liquid nutrients are piped into his stomach.
Dhiab, who is represented by the British human rights group Reprieve, said through his attorneys that the footage needed to be released “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. 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,” according to The Guardian.
The Obama administration has fought efforts to bring transparency to goings on at Guantanamo Bay, from inconsistent rules about what can be recorded by visitors to this week’s fight over what the public can see in Dhiab’s case. The Navy stopped releasing daily information about how many detainees were still on hunger strike in December, although at least some men are still trying to refuse food. One-hundred forty-nine men remain there.
President Obama signed an executive order calling for the closure of Guantanamo on his second day in office.
Dhiab is one of the 79 men at the island prison who should long ago have departed. He has been at Guantanamo since 2002 without charge or trial, and was cleared for release in 2009.