WASHINGTON : A US federal judge has ordered President Barack Obama’s administration to temporarily stop force feeding a Syrian detainee at Guantanamo Bay prison and hand over videotapes of his treatment.
Abu Wa’el Dhiab, 42, was cleared for release by the Obama administration in 2009 but has remained at the US naval base in Cuba for more than a decade without charge or trial.
Lawyers from London-based human rights group Reprieve have sought to secure 140 to 150 videos of Dhiab being force-fed or forcibly restrained.
US District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the Obama administration Friday to preserve and provide videotapes of the forced feeding and so-called forcible cell extractions of Dhiab between April 9, 2013, and February 19, 2014.
Reprieve describes a forcible cell extraction as the process by which detainees are “often violently” forcibly restrained and taken to the force-feeding chair.
Kessler also ordered the administration to stop force-feeding Dhiab until Wednesday.
US government lawyers confirmed in a filing that Dhiab, who was born in Lebanon, was on the list for force-feeding, a rare acknowledgement as prison authorities have refused to provide information about hunger strikers and their treatment since late last year.
“Despite Gitmo’s media blackout on information about force-feeding and brutal ‘forcible cell extractions,’ we’ve managed to get some key information out,” said Dhiab attorney and Reprieve strategic director Cori Crider. “Everything we’ve learned is highly disturbing.
“JTF-GTMO (Joint Task Force-Guantanamo) also has a history of losing inconvenient evidence, including similar tapes of the Gitmo riot squad, so let’s hope that these recordings don’t go the way of the waterboarding tapes before them.”
US Justice Department attorneys said in a filing Thursday that Dhiab’s lawyers have yet to prove that his forcible cell extractions were “unlawful.”
“His motion is completely devoid of any details regarding specific instances of mistreatment,” they added.
“Rather, he has only raised vague and speculative allegations of FCE abuse based almost entirely on statements of other detainees that provide no information about petitioner whatsoever.”
Reprieve notes that Dhiab’s return to Syria is now “impossible” because of the brutal civil war there that has already claimed more than 150,000 lives.
The father of four’s health has “deteriorated significantly,” and he is “profoundly depressed” and confined to a wheelchair, it added.