Friday, 31 October 2014 00:00

Members of Congress demand to see Guantánamo detainee force-feeding videos

Written by  Spencer Ackerman | The Guardian
A restraint chair used to force-feed detainees on hunger strike A restraint chair used to force-feed detainees on hunger strike Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Progressive representatives Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison send letter to President Obama calling secrecy ‘untenable’ and saying ‘no justification has been provided’

Congressional progressives are calling on President Barack Obama to allow them to view secret videotapes depicting graphic forced tube feedings for Guantánamo Bay detainees.

In a letter to be sent to the White House on Thursday, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus request the administration provide legislators with videotapes showing the force-feedings of detainees Abu Wa’el Dhiab and Imad Abdullah Hassan, which they call “contrary to American laws or values”.

“Ongoing secrecy is untenable,” wrote representatives Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, both Democrats. “The facts pertaining to these practices at Guantánamo should be available to members of Congress.”

The tapes are the subject of a transparency battle in federal court. Earlier this month, Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the Obama administration to disclose hours of classified videotapes showing Guantánamo personnel feeding Dhiab, who is on hunger strike, through a tube inserted through his nose and into his stomach. The Guardian is part of a media coalition seeking the videos.

Yet it is uncertain when the public will get to see the Guantánamo videos, if at all. Kessler last week permitted the government a 30-day pause on the videos’ release after the Justice Department objected it had insufficient time to remove the names or voices of Guantánamo guards and medical staff. Lawyers for the Justice Department say they are studying their options for appeal.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus stopped short of calling for the videos to be released outright. Its letter, obtained by the Guardian, is agnostic on viewing the videos in secret or in a public session. But Grijalva and Ellison write that “no national security or other justification has been provided” for classifying the tapes as secret.

Through his lawyers, Dhiab has said he considers the force feedings, and associated forcible cell removals, to be administered in an unnecessarily brutal and painful manner. For three days in October, Kessler presided over what she called a “trial” of the propriety of the force-feedings, the first court hearings into military conduct at Guantánamo.

While Dhiab’s lawyers argued the force-feedings are medically unnecessary andamount to a punishment for hunger-striking, Justice Department lawyers rejected any assertion that the feedings are inhumane. Litigation in Dhiab’s case resulted in the first acknowledgement by the government that the feedings are recorded on video.

Grijalva and Ellison write that they support Obama’s efforts to close the detention facility at Guantánamo, a stalled goal.

“Until that occurs, we would like to work with the administration to stop any abusive or illegal practices that take place within its walls,” they write.

Link to original article from The Guardian

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