Detainees seek court order to preserve newly-discovered videos of force-feeding
May 14, 2014
Hunger-striking detainees in Guantánamo Bay have asked a federal US court not to allow the prison authorities to destroy footage of them being force-fed.
The existence of the recordings – captured by the military – emerged during the course of litigation in Washington DC’s Federal District court attempting to prevent abusive force-feeding.
The renewed legal challenge to the practice was launched after Reprieve’s initial force-feeding case, Aamer v. Obama, in which the DC Court of Appeals cleared the way for these cases. In this litigation, detainees revealed a host of abuses during feeding, including being left to defecate in restraint chairs, the gratuitous insertion and extraction of long feeding tubes, and speeds of force-feeding that grossly exceed accepted medical procedures.
The tapes are likely to show Guantánamo’s ‘Forcible Cell Extraction’ (FCE) team transporting hunger-striking detainees who refuse (or are too weak) to walk to the force-feeding chair. This process, in which a team of military police in riot gear storm a prisoner’s cell and ‘subdue’ him, has long been criticized as abusive. In 2003, USAF Spc. Sean Baker suffered permanent brain damage during a cell extraction training exercise. He was playing the role of the detainee.
As part of the litigation, medical expert Professor Steven Miles, MD has submitted an affidavit describing the reported rates of force-feeding at Guantánamo as “an extraordinary departure from customary medical practice” reminiscent of “a practice of torture called ‘Water Cure’ that has been practiced since the Middle Ages.” It is estimated that 17 men are currently on hunger strike in the prison. The authorities at Guantánamo stopped releasing official figures towards the end of last year, while detainees’ access to lawyers has been increasingly restricted – reducing the availability of accurate information on the strike.
154 men are still held at the prison, more than half of whom have been cleared for release by the very government that continues to hold them without charge or trial.
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and counsel to the detainees, said: “Gitmo’s riot squad hauling prisoners to force-feeding is some of the worst that is going on there right now, and we were stunned to learn some of it has been filmed. We can’t let this evidence go the way of the waterboarding tapes – they might well be at the heart of the upcoming trial of Gitmo’s brutal force-feeding practices’.
Jon B. Eisenberg, co-counsel, said: “Right now we are very concerned that someone in government or the military might be acting quickly to destroy the force feeding videotapes, and we have asked the court to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Notes to editors
2. The motion is available upon request.