Judge rejects Obama attempt to conceal Guantanamo force feeding tapes
Reprieve | October 27, 2015
A US District Court judge has rejected the Obama administration’s latest request to conceal tapes of detainees at Guantanamo Bay being force-fed.
Responding to the government’s request to reverse her order handed down in October last year – that the Guantanamo tapes should be released – Judge Gladys Kessler wrote that, “What the Government is really saying is that its classification system trumps the decisions of the federal courts as to the public’s access to official court records; in other words, the Executive Branch (in this case, the Military) purports to be a law unto itself.”
In her ruling today, Judge Kessler described the government’s request as ‘repetitive, speculative, and extremely vague.’ In August, the US government handed to the court censored versions of the tapes which show former detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab being force-fed. These tapes have been redacted to conceal the identities of those military personnel carrying out the procedure. However, lawyers at international human rights NGO Reprieve – who have seen the redacted versions – have raised concerns that the redactions, especially of sound, are so heavy that they render the tapes nearly incomprehensible. Reprieve lawyers have filed a motion challenging the extent of censorship; that motion is pending.
Today’s judgement means that the US government must continue litigation if it is to successfully conceal the tapes from the American press and public. Alongside lawyers for Mr Dhiab, 16 news outlets – including the New York Times, Associated Press and Guardian – have joined the legal filing seeking release of the Guantanamo tapes to the public on First Amendment grounds.
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and attorney for the Guantanamo detainees, said: “The Obama administration has dragged its feet for over a year to stop the American press and public seeing a single frame of these tapes. We’re glad the judge has denied the government’s request for a blanket cover-up, but a lot of problems persist – we expect the government to appeal this to the Supreme Court to stop people seeing the truth. Americans have a right to see what continues to be done in their name up to this day. The government should reduce its heavy-handed censorship of the footage, drop the appeals, and release the tapes immediately.”
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