A momentous victory for justice and transparency at Guantánamo

“Fairness” is not a word often associated with Guantánamo Bay, with its hope-starved prisoners who have sat in steel cells, away from their families, for 12 years. “Openness” is not a concept typically applied to the infamous camp, about which President Barack Obama’s administration has hidden more information than even the George W. Bush administration did — down to the current number of hunger strikers protesting their continued detention without charges.

Last week my hunger-striking client Abu Wa’el Dhiab — with the help of an engaged public — managed to win victories for both openness and fairness at Guantánamo. In a pitched court battle, on Thursday we stopped a last-minute bid by the government to hold the first-ever trial of abusive force-feeding at the prison almost entirely in secret. Per Judge Gladys Kessler’s decision on Thursday, the public has the right to hear in court on Monday about the suffering our client endures every day.

Then on Friday afternoon, in perhaps the most significant Guantánamo decision in years, Kessler ordered the release of videotapes showing the cell extractions and force-feedings of Dhiab. For the first time, public knowledge of Guantánamo will not be restricted to U.S. government press releases. Everyone will be able to view and judge for themselves the daily treatment of innocent men such as Dhiab.

It was a long road to get here. More than a year has passed since Dhiab first went to court to try to stop horribly abusive force-feeding techniques used to punish him for his peaceful hunger strike. Arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and eventually transferred to Guantánamo, Dhiab has never been charged with a crime and has been cleared for release since 2009. During his 12 years of imprisonment, one of Dhiab’s sons died, and his family fled the violence of their homeland, Syria. Abu Wa’el means “father of Wa’el,” his preferred name after his son’s passing. Dhiab does not want to die and does not oppose being fed if his health demands. But he will not stop protesting his unjust detention by hunger strike and should not suffer in silence the inhumane methods of his force-feeding...


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