Court hearing tomorrow on release of Guantánamo force-feeding videos
May 7, 2015
The Obama Administration will tomorrow (Friday) seek to persuade a US appeal court not to release videos showing prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay.
The federal hearing in Dhiab v Obama, at 9.30 am in Court 11 in D.C.’s Court of Appeals, stems from a 2014 challenge by Guantánamo’s hunger strikers of the conditions of their detention. As part of that case, lawyers for lead petitioner Abu Wa’el Dhiab filed as sealed evidence hours of classified footage of Mr Dhiab being violently removed from his cell and abusively force-fed by the military authorities.
On June 20, 2014, a coalition of 16 media organizations – including the New York Times and Associated Press – filed an intervention to court, seeking the public release of the videos on First Amendment grounds. On October 3, Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the footage to be released, with appropriate redactions on national security grounds.
The Obama Administration is now appealing Judge Kessler’s release order, insisting that the judiciary must defer to the executive on classification issues, and will present oral arguments tomorrow.
In response, counsel for the 16 media outlets, along with Reprieve, will argue that the American people have a First Amendment right to see what is being done in their name, and that the tapes are improperly classified by the Administration.
Reprieve and the media intervenors received supporting amicus briefs from the ACLU and the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press; the Brennan Center for Justice and the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and a group of eminent constitutional law professors comprised of Michael Dorf, Alan Brownstein, and Steven Shiffrin.
In defiance of an order by Judge Kessler, the Administration has failed to redact the tapes – a prerequisite to any release.
Reprieve attorney Alka Pradhan said: “The Obama administration is determined to defy the judiciary and hide their continuing abuse of detainees at all costs. The President’s silence on the cruel and punitive force-feeding at Guantanamo makes the release of these tapes to the American people even more crucial. This would be a step towards restoring the American values that we have shredded in perpetuating the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”
Reprieve attorney Cori Crider said: “Guantanamo, its facilities, and its prisoners must be the most photographed in the world. You’ve seen the man in the orange jumpsuit; you’ve seen the prison blocks; you’ve seen the force-feeding chair. Why, when you put them all together, do the images magically become not PR fodder but national security secrets? The answer is obvious: the truth shames America. But the reality of force-feeding is of central public importance. That is why Americans should be permitted to see the force-feeding tapes.”
Notes to Editors
1. The hearing in Dhiab v Obama is at 9.30am on Friday May 8 in Courtroom 11 of the US Court of Appeals,
333 Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC 20001.
2. The arguments and amici submissions may be downloaded at http://www.reprieve.org/obama-appeals-forcefeeding-release-order1.html
3. A timeline of the Dhiab v Obama court case is here http://www.reprieve.org/guantanamo-force-feeding-litigation-timetable.html
4. Reprieve is an international human rights group.
5. For further information, please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve US: firstname.lastname@example.org / (+1) 917 855 8064