Guantanamo force-feeding trial continues today

October 7, 2014

The first-ever trial to assess the legality of force-feeding methods at Guantanamo Bay will continue today in federal court in Washington, DC.

Lawyers Cori Crider and Alka Pradhan, from international human rights NGO Reprieve, are representing Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab who has been cleared for release since 2009 and is a long-time hunger striker protesting his indefinite detention. Mr Dhiab has been waging a high-profile challenge to his abusive force-feeding at Guantanamo since June 2013.

Today, torture expert and bioethicist Dr Stephen Miles is expected to give evidence on the particular methods used to force-feed, including about the size of the tube used to pump liquid nutrient into the detainee’s stomach.

Videos showing ‘forcible cell extractions’ (where a team of guards in riot gear manhandle the detainee to the force-feeding chair) and force-feedings, which on Friday Judge Kessler ruled must be released to the public, are expected to be watched in closed court.

Yesterday, lawyers for the government insisted that medical groups like the World Medical Association, and internationally accepted medical ethics standards like the Malta Declaration (on how doctors should treat hunger strikers), do not apply at Guantanamo.

Dr Stephen Xenakis, a former army brigadier general and psychiatrist, also testified yesterday, saying that Mr Dhiab poses no realistic threat to guards at the prison and that if he treated well could feasibly be force-fed in a single-point restraint chair rather than the five-point restraint chair currently being used. Dr Xenakis also testified that the ‘forcible cell extractions’ make it impossible for the detainees to have a constructive relationship with those force-feeding them.

The trial is being held in public after Judge Kessler denied the government’s request to hold it in secret.

Cori Crider, attorney for Mr Dhiab and Strategic Director of Reprieve, said: “The government wants you to believe they offer top-flight medical care to my client, but this is laughable.  As Dr. Crosby testified, it’s cruel and punitive to take a hunger-striker’s wheelchair away. The Defense Department is trying to stamp out our client’s protest and punishing him by withholding needed medical care. This has to stop.”

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. Reprieve is an international human rights organization.

3. Further information about Judge Kessler ruling that the trial must not be held behind closed doors is available upon request.

4. Further information about Judge Kessler ordering the release of the video footage is available upon request.

5. Mr. Dhiab will be represented at the force-feeding hearing by attorneys Jon B. Eisenberg, Eric Lewis and Elizabeth Marvin of Lewis Baach, and Cori Crider and Alka Pradhan of Reprieve.