Judge orders US government to prepare Guantánamo force-feeding tapes for public release
A federal judge today ordered the Obama Administration to prepare secret videotapes of a Guantanamo detainee's treatment for release to the public.
In a ruling this afternoon in Washington DC, Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the US Government to complete all national security-related redactions to the first eight tapes - which show Abu Wa'el Dhiab being forcibly removed from his cell and tube-fed -- by August 31, and to complete other key redactions by September 30.
The tapes were first filed to court as classified evidence in a legal challenge to prison conditions at Guantanamo Bay, Dhiab v Obama. 16 press organizations, including Associated Press, the Washington Post and the New York Times, intervened seeking the videos' release to the public on First Amendment grounds. Judge Kessler ordered them to be released; the Obama Administration then appealed in what Judge Kessler called "as frivolous an appeal as I've seen.'
Reprieve attorney for Abu Wa-el Dhiab Cori Crider said:
"This is a great win for the US press, and for the First Amendment. The Obama Administration has been kicking and screaming to avoid processing even one minute of this footage, and never wanted to have to give a specific reason for keeping it secret. That is because the real reason for trying to hide Mr Dhiab’s face is that what he suffered is a scandal and an embarrassment to the Administration that allowed it.
"The Government has been rightly chided by the judge and now will be made to give real reasons for every frame of this footage that they want to keep hidden from the public.
"Images of a suffering detainee are matters of public importance and should no more be suppressed than those of Abu Ghraib, Eric Garner or Rodney King. An Administration truly committed to transparency would release the tapes forthwith.
"That's why the US press is intervening in this case, and the courts are standing firm to preserve our right to see what is being done in our name."
1. The arguments and amici submissions in Dhiab v Obama may be downloaded at reprieve.org. The text of Judge Kessler's order is as follows:
ORDER that the Government shall complete redaction of the eight videotapes it has identified and file Notice of such completion on or before August 31, 2015; the Government shall complete redaction of Petitioner's Compilation and the Government's Compilation and file Notice of such completion on or before September 30, 2015; the Parties shall take notice that there will be NO extensions of time granted; a Status Conference is hereby scheduled for October 15, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. Signed by Judge Gladys Kessler on 7/10/15. (CL)
2. A timeline of the Dhiab v Obama court case is here
3. Reprieve is an international human rights group.