Guantanamo hunger strike reaches Day 100

Eurasia News

As the Guantanamo hunger strike enters its 100th day, the number of voices, both in the US and around the world, to close the facility are growing stronger and louder.

Lawyers acting for prisoners in Guantanamo say the real figures may be higher, but officially of the 166 inmates in Guantanamo, 102 are currently on hunger strike. Of these, 30 are being force-fed through a nasal tube and three are in hospital.

The 166 prisoners have been there eleven and a half years and 90 per cent of them haven’t been charged with a crime.

The hunger strike began in February after an altercation between prisoners and guards, after guards allegedly interfered with the inmates personal belongings including the mishandling of Koran’s.

Original only a few dozen of the prisoners were refusing to eat but by the end of April the authorities in charge of Guantanamo were forced to admit that the number had jumped to 102.

A consortium of 20 human rights organizations, pressure groups and law bodies including Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, issued a plea Monday to the US defence secretary Chuck Hagel to end the practice of force-feeding in Guantanamo.

The letter noted that the practice of force-feeding at Guantanamo amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and is in violation of the Geneva conventions to which the US is a signatory.

There is also a growing level of discomfort about what is happening in Guantanamo among the medical community. An editorial published in the medical journal the Lancet earlier this month said that in this case force-feeding prisoners who had chosen not to eat as a form of protest “infringes the principle of patient autonomy.”

While the Pentagon drags its heels on Guantanamo, a number of high profile figures from the US establishment have come forward to actively campaign for its closure.

A petition, which was started by Morris Davis, the former Chief Prosecutor for terrorism trials at Guantanamo Bay, was filed earlier this month and includes a letter to President Obama to bring about the closure of the prison.

86 of the 166 prisoners still in Guantanamo have been cleared to leave the facility but haven’t been allowed to leave because there is no arrangement as to where they can be sent.

On the 25th April, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting it re-examine the release of low-level Guantanamo detainees to Yemen.

Following an attempt by the Yemini branch of Al-Qaeda to blow up a Detroit-bound jet liner, the transfer of 56 Yemeni bound inmates was halted.

President Obama has repeatedly said he wants to close the detention centre, but insists that he must persuade Congress that it is in America’s interests to shut it down.