FORCE-FEEDING LITIGATION TIMELINE
- June 30th – A group of hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees, represented by Reprieve and co-counsel Jon Eisenberg, files litigation in US Federal Court asking the court to force the US government stop force-feeding (Aamer v. Obama).
- July 8th – In the case of Abu Wa’el Dhiab (Dhiab v. Obama) Judge Gladys Kessler opines that while she does not have jurisdiction to issue an injunction to stop force-feeding, it is clear to her that it is: “a painful, humiliating, and degrading process".
- July 10th – Senators Feinstein and Durbin write to President Obama asking that he stop force-feeding detainees and fulfill his promise to close the prison as soon as possible.
- October 18th – The appeal in the consolidated force-feeding case, Aamer v. Obama, is argued in Washington, DC.
- February 11th – The key decision is handed down which paves the way to subsequent force-feeding litigation. In Aamer v. Obama the US Court of Appeals in D.C rules that the Federal Court has jurisdiction to consider claims that the treatment of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay is unlawful. The court writes that detainees should be given a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the legality of force-feeding. However, it refuses to ban force-feeding outright, and also rules that detainees couldn’t be considered ‘persons’ with respect to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), thus allowing the prison to continue to prevent detainees’ religious practices such as communal prayer.
- March 11th – The first post-Aamer case challenging force-feeding is filed in Hassan v. Obama by Reprieve, Jon Eisenberg, and Lewis Baach. Emad Hassan is a cleared Yemeni who has been on hunger strike since 2007.
- April 18th - After the Court of Appeals mandate issues in his case, Abu Wa’el Dhiab files a further case in DC Court challenging abusive force-feeding practices.
- May 13th – Reprieve and co-counsel for Abu Wa’el Dhiab learns that the FCE (forced cell extractions) and force-feedings of our client Abu Wa’el Dhiab were being videotaped by JTF-GTMO. We immediately file an emergency motion for discovery and preservation of the tapes in DC court. Reprieve files similar motions for Emad Hassan and Ahmed Rabbani.
- May 14th – We also file a motion on behalf of Emad Hassan asking the government to disclose previously-secret versions of the Standard Operating Procedure protocols for force-feeding and the use of restraint chairs.
- May 16th – The Obama administration responds to Reprieve’s motion on behalf of its clients, describing detainee attempts to preserve the force-feeding tapes as 'frivolous' and refuses to disclose the videos. Despite this, Judge Gladys Kessler issues an order temporarily preventing the force-feeding of Mr Dhiab and requiring preservation and maintenance of “all relevant videotapes” of Mr Dhiab’s FCE and force-feedings.
- May 19th - Reprieve lawyers file an emergency motion seeking the preservation of FCE and force-feeding tapes of clients Emad Hassan and Ahmed Rabbani.
- May 21st – Judge Gladys Kessler orders the US government to hand over 34 tapes of Abu Wa’el Dhiab being force-fed and FCE’d, as well as his medical records.
- May 22nd – Judge Gladys Kessler issues an order to lift the temporary restraining order placed on the force-feeding of Mr Dhiab, but orders the government to hand over the force-feeding tapes. She criticizes the Department of Defense for its “intransigence,” which made it impossible to litigate the case “in a civilized and appropriate manner”.
- June 2nd – Reprieve lawyers file an emergency motion seeking the release of FCE and force-feeding tapes of clients Emad Hassan and Ahmed Rabbani.
- June 12th – After Ahmed Rabbani tells his lawyers that the prison authorities keep confiscating Mr Dhiab’s wheelchair and were escalating their brutal treatment of him, Reprieve files an emergency motion in Mr Dhiab’s case seeking a second TRO (temporary restraining order) on his force-feeding and asks that the authorities return his wheelchair. Mr Rabbani had also told his lawyer that prison authorities stopped videotaping FCEs in response to the disclosure of some of this evidence.
- June 18th – Judge Gladys Kessler orders the government to hand over four more of the force-feeding tapes in the case of Abu Wa’el Dhiab.
- June 20th – 16 major news outlets in the United States, ‘The Press Applicants' - including the Associated Press, The New York Times, MSNBC, and CNN – intervene in the case of Mr Dhiab asking that the court make the force-feeding tapes public. The government response to this is due on July 18th. Meanwhile, Reprieve lawyers file a motion seeking to question Guantanamo prison chief Colonel Bogdan under oath about why he confiscated Mr Dhiab’s wheelchair during force-feeding, and to have Mr Dhiab assessed by two medical experts.
- June 26th – Judge Kessler orders the US government to produce previously-secret force-feeding protocols.
- July 2nd – Reprieve lawyers ask the government to allow them to share details of the force-feeding tapes with other security-cleared Guantanamo counsel since the government has so far, in an unprecedented move, banned them from doing so.
- July 4th – In the wake of the US Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, ruling that companies are ‘people’ with religious free exercise rights under a US statute, two hunger striking detainees (Ahmed Rabbani and Emad Hassan), ask that the court afford the same rights to the men being held in Guantanamo. Prisoners who are hunger striking to protest their indefinite detention are banned from communal prayer. In the rest of the prison, ‘compliant’ (non-protesting) detainees are allowed to pray together.
- July 15th: Guantanamo nurse refuses to participate in "criminal" force-feedings - A military medical professional at Guantanamo Bay recently refused to force-feed detainees after witnessing the suffering it caused detainees, it is revealed.
- August 5th - Gitmo prisoner’s “life at risk” after abusive force-feeding - the health of a hunger-striking detainee at Guantánamo Bay has plummeted so low that it appears his life is at risk, his lawyer has said, days after a visit to the prison.
- August 12th - US Judge orders that independent doctors be allowed into Guantanamo Bay to evaluate a long-time hunger striker whose health has deteriorated so much that there are now concerns for his life.
- August 22nd - A federal judge orders Guantanamo authorities to explain why they are flouting a court order to allow an independent medical exam of a hunger-striking detainee.
- September 17th - Two independent doctors raise concerns in federal court about the treatment of a long-term hunger-striker at Guantánamo Bay, warning that the prison authorities are inflicting needless physical harm on a frail man long cleared for release.
- September 24th - An independent medical doctor who has examined cleared hunger-striker Abu Wa’el Dhiab at Guantánamo Bay determines that his treatment is ‘cruel and punitive’ and violates accepted medical practice in multiple ways, according to a medical report filed in federal court.
- October 3rd - A federal judge refuses to hold the first-ever trial of prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay behind closed doors, issuing a sharply-worded order calling the Obama Administration's request for secrecy 'deeply troubling.'
- October 3rd - In a landmark decision, Judge Kessler orders the Administration to release the redacted video footage of Abu Wa'el Dhiab being force-fed to the public, describing the Government's justifications for keeping the video evidence sealed as "unacceptably vague, speculative, lack[ing specificity, or... just plain implausible". Alka Pradhan, Reprieve attorney to Mr Dhiab, said: “This may well be the most significant court decision on Guantanamo Bay in years".
- October 6th - A trial challenging the government's current force-feeding practices as cruel and unethical begins in federal court in Washington, D.C.
- October 9th - Reprieve US awaits a ruling in Dhiab v Obama, the first-ever trial to assess the legality of prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay, which concluded on October 8th in federal court in Washington, DC. Judge Kessler orders the US Government to redact the videotape evidence of Abu Wa'el Dhiab's force-feeds and forcible cell extractions by October 17.
- October 17th - The Obama Administration secures an extra 30 days to decide whether or not to appeal the court-ordered release of videotapes showing abuse at Guantánamo Bay.
- October 30th - Seventy-six US Members of Congress call on President Obama to let them view video footage of abusive force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay.
- November 7th - A federal judge slams the US government over its treatment of hunger-striking detainee Abu Wa'el Dhiab. However, the court denies relief after the government made last-minute reversals to force-feeding practices.
- November 20th - Medical groups including the American Nurses Association come out in support of a nurse who refused to force-feed a hunger striking Guantanamo detainee.
- December 2nd - The Obama Administration appeals Judge Kessler's order to release the force-feeding videos.
- December 7th - Abu Wa'el Dhiab is released to Uruguay, along with five other cleared prisoners.
- January 11th - Guantanamo detainee, Emad Hassan, describes the ongoing torture of force-feeding in a letter to his lawyers at Reprieve.
- January 29th - Revealed in a Vice Article, the Military admits that force feeding Guantanamo detainees violates international law and medical ethics. The information is obtained from an internal government memo, entitled "Legal Authority and Policy for Enteral Feeding at JTF-GTMO" (Joint Task Force-Guantanamo) following a FOIA request.
- April 1st - The lawyers for Reprieve and sixteen major media outlets ask a US federal court to dismiss White House attempt to to suppress the videos.
- May 8th- In court hearing, the Obama Administration seeks to persuade Appeal Court not to release the videos.
- May 29th- Appeal court orders the Obama Administration to redact 12 hours of force-feeding footage in preparation for its public release.
- July 9th - Judge Kessler slams 'frivolous' government appeal, orders the Obama Administration to 'move fast' on the tapes preparation for release .
- July 28th - The Obama Administration files a motion for consideration of Judge Kessler's order, claiming in their filing that releasing the footage will aid extremist groups, and that the press have no First Amendment Right to the evidence.
- September 15th - 8 of the 32 'Guantanamo tapes' are handed over to the court in First Amendment tussle. The Obama Administration maintains its request for Judge Kessler to withdraw her order that the tapes be released.
- January 21st - One day before the deadline of the 22nd January, seven years to the day since Obama's signing of the Executive Order to close Guanatanamo, the Obama Administration files another appeal to suppress the release of the force-feeding tapes.
UPDATE: The litigation over the release of the force-feeding videos release is continuing. Reprieve US views this as a First Amendment question which goes beyond Dhiab's imprisonment.