Number on Guantanamo Hunger Strike Doubles in Under a Month
LONDON – January 12 – A new report has revealed that the number of hunger strikers in Guantanamo has doubled since the final set of official figures was released by the US authorities on December 2 2013.
The report, compiled by human rights charity Reprieve, uses prisoner testimony to reveal that 33 men detained in Guantanamo are on hunger strike, with 16 being force fed. The Joint Task Force at Guantanamo, which runs the prison, announced in December of 2013 that they would no longer release official figures of those on hunger strike because they did not want to ‘further their protests’.
The report also reveals that authorities at the prison are punishing those on hunger strike by sending them to the strictest of the camps, ‘Camp V Echo’. One detainee described his experiences there to his lawyer at Reprieve: “My cell in the dreadful Camp V Echo is constructed in a strange manner. It is designed to torture the person who is held there. All the surfaces made of steel. The bed is steel. The walls are steel. The floor is steel. The ceiling is steel. There is no toilet, but the hole in the ground is made of steel.”
British resident Shaker Aamer, who remains imprisoned despite having been cleared by both the Bush and Obama administrations, said: “[I was] strapped to the bed for 24 hours except to use the toilet. The [force-feeding] tube was in 24 hours a day. We would be fed for 30-40 minutes each time, with Ensure cans, two cans, three times a day. Some of the prisoners became zombies, as if they were already dead. I dropped weight to 130 pounds. I told the doctors, ‘I want to die peacefully. I want no intervention.’ But they refused this.”
Mr Aamer’s British wife and four British children, the youngest of whom he has never met, live in London. British Prime Minister David Cameron has raised his case directly with President Obama, yet Mr Aamer remains imprisoned. There is an ongoing police investigation into Mr Aamer’s treatment at the hands of British and US officials.
155 men are still detained in Guantanamo Bay, 77 of who have been cleared for release. Yesterday (Saturday) marked the twelfth anniversary of the first arrival of prisoners at the detention camp. Of the 779 men known to have been held there 624 have been released. More prisoners have died than have been put on trial.
Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director and Guantanamo lawyer, said: “Guantanamo Bay has for years been a blot on the US’ reputation and a recruiting tool for extremists. The conditions there are worsening and more men are going on hunger strike, and being force fed, as a result. Shaker Aamer could be transferred out of there to his home and his family in the UK tomorrow. The US must send Shaker and the other cleared men home and close the prison.”
Notes to editors
2. The comments about why the Guantanamo authorities stopped releasing figures ofmen on hunger strike can be found, here.