On Aug. 25, the military said 89 "detainees" at Guantanamo were "fasting" and 7 were hospitalized and receiving forced fluids or nutrition. On Friday, Sept. 2, BBC quoted the military as saying there were 76 prisoners on a hunger strike, but the mlitary would not say how long it had been going on. Now, Sept. 13, the military admits there are 128 detainees "fasting" and 18 are being hospitalized and force-fed nutrition to prevent them from committing what military spokesman Maj. Jeff Weir called, "a slow form of suicide."
Lawyers for the prisoners contend there are actually more than 200 prisoners involved (out of the 500 or so prisoners we know about), and that many of them have been refusing food for five weeks or more to protest beatings and their indefinite detention--which for some has now been more than 3 1/2 years. Lawyers are only able to discuss the situation now because their conversations with prisoners--and their accounts of abuse--have become declassified since August. Other accounts of abuse have yet to be declassified.
This is not the first hunger strike at Guantanamo. An earlier hunger strike in June and July (2005) ended after military authorities met with a small group of detainees and promised improvements in their living conditions. And earlier still, in August 2003, 23 detainees tried to kill themselves, a mass suicide protest, including 10 on a single day. (The military says that in "only" two of the cases would the detainees have died had a guard not intervened.)
In November 30, 2004, NY Times reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) accused the U.S. military in an internal report of using tactics that were, "inhumane," "cruel," and "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantanamo. The Red Cross--the only outside group allowed any access to the prisoners--has refused to comment on the NY Times article. In their formal press release, which began with the note that the ICRC "enables those detained at Guantanamo Bay to remain in contact with their families by means of Red Cross messages," they said they would not comment but they did say that, "ICRC remains concerned that significant problems regarding conditions and treatment at Guantanamo Bay have not yet been adequately addressed." Read between the lines, people!
"They truly feel they have nothing left," said attorney David Remes, who represents several Yemeni detainees. Washington Post, Sept. 13, 2005
There is a reason why the Bush Administration is fighting so hard to prevent the press and the courts from having any access to these prisoners, and it has nothing to do with national security. Surely torture is an impeachable offense.