Obama administration resists efforts to preserve videos of Guantanamo force-feeding

May 16, 2014

Image depicting force-feeding of Mos Def

Lawyers for the Obama administration have described as “frivolous” attempts to ensure that videos of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay are not destroyed, in response to a case brought by a detainee over his mistreatment.

Legal charity Reprieve, acting on behalf of Abu Wa’el Dhiab – who has been cleared since 2009 but continues to be held without charge or trial – had sought to ensure that videos showing his force-feeding cannot be destroyed by the military.

However, the US Government is strongly resisting efforts to secure a court order preserving the videos, which could be crucial evidence for Mr Dhiab’s efforts to stop his force-feeding.

Government lawyers did however admit that “there are approximately 140 to 150 FCE videos of [Mr Dhiab] between April 9, 2013 and February 19, 2014 [and] it appears that the vast majority of these videos are of FCEs in connection with enteral feeding or otherwise arguably related to enteral feeding.” An FCE, or ‘Forcible Cell Extraction,’ is the process by which detainees who do not wish to be force-fed are restrained, often violently, and taken to the force-feeding chair.

Government lawyers also confirmed that Mr Dhiab is currently on the list for force-feeding – a rare insight into the ongoing hunger-strike at Guantanamo Bay, where authorities introduced a black-out on information regarding the number of hunger-strikers and their treatment in December last year.

In documents filed today, lawyers from Reprieve, together with Jon B. Eisenberg and Eric Lewis, have argued that the replies given by the military concerning the preservation of the video tapes are equivocal, and leave open the possibility that the DoD does not know and has made no effort to determine whether they have in fact been destroyed.

Commenting, Cori Crider, one of Mr Dhiab’s attorneys and Strategic Director at Reprieve said: “Despite Gitmo’s media blackout on information about force-feeding and brutal ‘forcible cell extractions’, we’ve managed to get some key information out.  Everything we’ve learned is highly disturbing.  JTF-GTMO 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.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: katherine.oshea@reprieve.org or alice.gillham@reprieve.org.uk