United States District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered videotapes exhibiting the force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab to be unsealed.
The order stated “In short, it is our responsibility, as judges, as part of our obligation under the Constitution, to ensure that any efforts to limit our First Amendment protections are scrutinized with the greatest of care. That responsibility can not be ignored or abdicated.”
Kessler’s order on Friday disregarded the federal government’s argument that releasing the videos could compromise national security. The government warned that the videos would expose the prison’s architecture and the identities of guards that perform the force feedings. In Kessler’s order, she specified that the videos would redacted to protect the identities of all individuals other than Dhiab. “It strains credulity to conclude that release of these videos has a substantial probability of causing the harm the Government predicts,” Kessler stated in the order.
Several media outlets became involved in seeking the release of the videotapes. Dhiab encouraged the media’s interest in the videos and has said that he wants as many people as possible to witness the actions in the tapes. “I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed. If the American people stand for freedom, they should watch these tapes. If they truly believe in human rights, they need to see these tapes,” Dhiab said in a statement that was included in Kessler’s order.
Cori Crider, an attorney for Dhiab who works for the human rights group Reprieve, said “It is high time the bright light of the truth was shone on Guantanamo’s force-feeding practices. It has always been the height of hypocrisy for the Guantanamo authorities to take media groups on ‘show tours’, while forbidding them from talking to prisoners or seeing evidence like this, which shows the grim reality of life at the prison. I look forward to the day when this evidence is made public, and I believe the outcry that results will hasten the close of Guantanamo Bay.”
Kessler’s order is the most recent course of action involving Dhiab’s protest against his detainment. Dhiab has been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for over a decade, and despite being cleared for release in 2009 he remains at the facility. His attempts at hunger striking in protest have been obstructed by force-feeding, and he has filed suit to stop them. In July, a nurse refused to continue performing Dhiab’s feedings, calling it a “criminal act”.
A preliminary hearing for Dhiab’s ongoing case is scheduled for today.