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U.S. Ordered To Turn Over Video Of Force-Feeding At Guantanamo


We've been hearing about hunger strikes at the Guantanamo prison camp from its earliest days, but one ongoing hunger strike became a major protest early last year. Some prisoners who refuse to eat have been force-fed, a procedure their lawyers charge is abusive. Yesterday a federal district judge in Washington, D.C. ordered the government to allow lawyers for one of those detainees to see video recordings made of his force feedings.

That judge had already ordered the force feedings stopped. Carol Rosenberg covers Guantanamo for the Miami Herald and she joined us for more. Good morning.

CAROL ROSENBERG: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Carol, tell us about this prisoner, Abu Wa'el Dhiab, and his hunger strike.

ROSENBERG: He arrived at Guantanamo at 2002. He's a Syrian man who got picked up in Pakistan. And since he's been notified about five years ago that if there's a country that'll take him, he can leave, he joined this hunger strike because, as his lawyers said, he's got nothing to lose. And in fact, on paper he could be going to Uruguay because Uruguay has agreed to take him in.

But meantime, guards are taking him to medics and subjecting him to these tube feedings once or twice a day.

MONTAGNE: So these video recordings that a judge has ordered that his lawyers be allowed to see, what is that all about?

ROSENBERG: The military, the guards, have been recording what they call these forced cell extractions where a prisoner who refuses to go compliantly to one of these tube feedings, a team of guards runs into his cell and tackles and shackles him and carries him out of there. And takes him to a feeding chair where he's shackled into a chair.

And these nurses and medics from the Navy come in and put a tube up his nose and down into his stomach to give him this re-nourishment. We've known for some time that they were making these recordings of this tackle and shackle but what we learned only recently is that they were also creating video recordings of these tube feedings. Which the military, by the way, says are quite humane.

And now we will have for the first time outsiders, a third party, and probably Judge Gladys Kessler seeing what is going on at Guantanamo. The context of all this is we have a federal judge, a civilian, who is inserting herself into this military process and that guards down there and the officers down there have told the people to keep out. And she said no.

MONTAGNE: And how many inmates are still on hunger strike now at Guantanamo?

ROSENBERG: That is unknowable because in December the general at Southcom, John Kelly, ordered the military to no longer disclose it.

MONTAGNE: Hmm. Now, you're headed back to Guantanamo for another hearing next week. What will that involve?

ROSENBERG: That's involved in a case that most people don't pay much attention to, the USS Cole bombing. And what the significance of that was is a military judge, an Army judge, has ordered the government to provide defense lawyers for this man, information about the CIA black sites, where he was held, what countries held him, names of agents, names of medical staff.

It's a different issue, it's not force feeding, but what we now see is that the judges are now willing to kind of push back against the government and say their lawyers are entitled to information that the CIA denied these attorneys for a decade.

MONTAGNE: Carol, thank you.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Carol Rosenberg covers the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for the Miami Herald. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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