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Abu Wa'el Dhiab

Nationality: Syrian
Date of birth: 10 July 1971
Arrested: Pakistan, 2002
Currently held: Guantanamo Bay
Status: Cleared for transfer


Mr. Dhiab, a father of four and devoted husband, was cleared for release by the US Government in 2009; yet he remains in Guantánamo Bay after more than a decade without charge or trial.

Mr. Dhiab was born in Lebanon but moved to Syria with his family at an early age. After getting married in 2000, starting a family and running a successful business in Afghanistan, he and his family were forced to flee across the border into Pakistan after the tragic events of September 11 meant Kabul was no longer safe.

A few months later, however, Mr. Dhiab was seized by Pakistani police. He was not charged with any crime, yet was turned over to the United States (for what was likely to have been a large bounty). He was transferred to the US-run prison at Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan in June 2002. Two months later he was rendered to Guantanamo Bay. He has remained there, without charge or trial, ever since.

As a result of the conditions inside the prison and the callous treatment he has received, Mr Dhiab’s health has now deteriorated to such an extent that he is confined to a wheelchair. Recent revelations revealed that Mr. Dhiab is being denied access to his wheelchair, meaning he is brutally dragged from his cell and force-fed against his will every day. After mounting a prominent legal challenge against his treatment, lawyers from Reprieve were able to view the video tapes of Mr. Dhiab being force fed. Whilst their content is currently classified “Secret” and therefore cannot be disclosed to the public, Cori Crider, Strategic Director for Reprieve and counsel for Mr. Dhiab, said that she had ‘trouble sleeping’ after viewing the harrowing tapes. In June 2014, 16 news organisations, including Reuters and the New York Times, intervened in Dhiab v Obama to seek access to the videos on First Amendment grounds.

Mr Dhiab has been on hunger strike on and off for years, and is still being force-fed against his will, despite a federal judge urging the authorities at Guantanamo to find an alternative that would spare him ‘the agony of having feeding tubes inserted and removed for each feeding’. On a recent phone call to his lawyers at Reprieve, Mr. Dhiab brought to light the case of a nurse at Guantanamo Bay who refused to force-feed detainees, saying ‘I have come to the decision that I refuse to participate in this criminal act’. The nurse’s conscientious objection to force-feeding has provided yet more evidence of the brutal treatment Mr. Dhiab and other detainees are being subjected to on a daily basis.

Mr. Dhiab’s wife and children desperately want to be reunited with their husband and father. A recent article by Umm Wa’el, Mr. Dhiab’s wife, called on the Obama administration to release her husband after almost 13 years in unlawful detention.

Abu Wa'el Dhiab's case history

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