Lawmakers tell White House: let us see Guantanamo force-feeding tapes

October 30, 2014

Seventy-six US Members of Congress have called on President Obama to let them view video footage of abusive force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay.

In a letter sent to the White House today, the legislators argue that the secrecy surrounding the abuse is “untenable”. They demand to see videos showing the force-feeding and ‘forcible cell extractions’ of cleared detainees Abu Wa’el Dhiab and Emad Hassan, in order to “take any action necessary to correct these practices.”

The existence of the videotapes emerged in the course of Dhiab v Obama, the first-ever trial to assess the legality of force-feeding methods of hunger-strikers at Guantanamo Bay. The case was brought by Mr Dhiab, a Syrian father of four who has been cleared for release since 2009, assisted by international human rights NGO Reprieve. Lawyers at the organization who have viewed the tapes have described them as “extremely disturbing”, but are barred from sharing details of their contents.

Ruling earlier this month at the DC District Court, Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the Government to prepare eleven hours of the classified footage for public release. Her judgment came after 16 media organizations filed a motion calling for the release of the tapes on First Amendment grounds.

Today’s letter, signed by Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), says: “The facts pertaining to these practices at Guantanamo should be available to Members of Congress […] U.S. personnel at Guantanamo should not carry out policies that are contrary to American laws or values.

“We will continue to support your efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Until that occurs, we would like to work with the administration to stop any abusive or illegal practices that take place within its walls.”

Alka Pradhan, an attorney for Mr Dhiab from Reprieve, said: “These Members of Congress have done what the President has failed to do: demand an end to the unjust secrecy over abuse at Gitmo. This call from Capitol Hill is as clear as Judge Kessler’s order. The White House must release the tapes without delay, so that Congress and the American people can see what’s being done in our name.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Katherine O’Shea in Reprieve’s US Press Office on katherine.oshea@reprieve.org or (001) 917 855 8064 or in the UK clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk / 44 (0) 207 553 8161

2.The letter to President Obama may be read or downloaded here. Further information about Judge Kessler ruling that the trial must not be held behind closed doors is available here. Further information about Judge Kessler ordering the release of the video footage is available here.

4. Mr. Dhiab is represented by attorneys Eric Lewis (Chairman of Reprieve US) and Elizabeth Marvin of Lewis Baach, Cori Crider and Alka Pradhan of Reprieve, and Jon Eisenberg.