US Judge Orders Independent Doctors to Evaluate Gravely Ill Guantanamo Hunger Striker

A US District Court judge today ordered 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.

In today’s hearing for Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab – cleared for release from the prison since 2009 and on continued hunger strike over his ongoing detention without charge or trial – Judge Gladys Kessler ordered that two independent doctors be allowed into the prison to evaluate him. Those doctors will also testify, along with a force-feeding expert, at a hearing scheduled for October 6, about the medical effects of the force-feedings on Mr. Dhiab.

Judge Kessler also ordered former prison commander Colonel John Bogdan to answer three questions in writing under oath regarding his involvement in the punitive force-feeding and FCE (Forcible Cell Extraction) tactics used at Guantanamo. Current and former senior medical officers have been ordered to each answer seven questions about their role in the force-feedings.

Mr. Dhiab’s lawyer Cori Crider, from the international human rights charity Reprieve, saw him on a legal visit two weeks ago and immediately filed a declaration in which she described him as ‘in great pain’’ and described how he had to lie on the floor during the visit in an attempt to allevaite some of this pain. Mr. Dhiab is asking the court to order a halt to the abusive and needlessly brutal practices that are currently being used to force-feed him, which include removing his wheelchair and manhandling him to be force-fed.

Recent revelations about the existence of video footage of Mr. Dhiab’s abuse have prompted a formal intervention in the case from 16 major US news organizations. In their latest filing to the court last Friday, the organizations criticised what they said was the Obama Administration’s “blunderbuss claims” that disclosing the tapes would be harmful to national security, calling them “illogical and implausible”, and “contradicted by the Government’s own past disclosures” of details about Guantánamo during extensive press tours.

Reprieve attorney Alka Pradhan, who appeared in court, said: “It is a positive step that independent doctors will be able to evaluate Mr Dhiab and the results of his brutal mistreatment at the hands of Guantanamo officials. Those officials, including the infamous Colonel Bogdan, finally have to answer to the Court for their abuse of peaceful hunger strikers. We look forward to shining a bright light on that abuse at the scheduled hearing in October.”