|Amnesty International demonstrates|
for the closure of Guantanamo Bay Prison
Some of the hunger striking detainees being force-fed at Guantanamo Bay were actually cleared for release years ago, according to a report.
Currently, government numbers indicate that 100 detainees are participating in the hunger strike, and 20 are currently being given tube feedings.
While Guantanamo officials have refused to identify the hunger strikers, the Justice Department has notified attorneys if their clients have become malnourished to the point of requiring tube feedings.
The Miami Herald has learned of the identities of eight of the men through their attorneys, four of those are being held even though they were cleared for release.
These individuals are just a tiny slice of the 55 total men eligible for release that have been identified by the Justice Department separately in federal court filings.
Of the some 166 men in Guantanamo, 46 were identified by a 2009 Guantanamo Review Task Force as “indefinite detainees.” This category means the detainees are people “against whom the United States had no evidence to convict of a war crime but had concluded was too dangerous to let go,” according to Foreign Policy.
According to the Miami Herald, the review also found “that 56 were eligible for transfer and another 30 might be eligible for transfer if certain conditions were met.”
Most of those transfers have been stopped by both Congressional restrictions on releases and the White House’s stance on refusing to transfer prisoners to Yemen, where most of them are from.
People in Yemen have begun speaking out, decrying the fact that Yemenis make up the largest portion of Guantanamo detainees, all of which are kept in what they call “very poor” conditions.
Yet it seems that the U.S. is unwilling to budge on the issue even when Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate intelligence Committee, said that it was indeed time to reconsider the ban on repatriating certain low-level detainees, according to the New York Times.
The number of hunger striking detainees has risen quite rapidly since April 13 when most of the prison complex was placed under lockdown after soldiers stormed the communal prison.
Before the lockdown, the military reported that 43 of the 166 detainees were hunger strikers. Now lawyers say that around 130 prisoners are taking part, though the military says it is just 100.
The military, however, maintains that the number isn’t actually growing.
Instead, the prison camp’s spokesman said on Friday that the 54 detainees added to the number since April 13 had just concealed their hunger strike from the prison by obscuring the surveillance cameras in their cells, which prompted the raid.
“All of the detainees who are considered hunger strikers were previously hunger striking,” said Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, a Guantanamo spokesman, “but could not be observed or placed under medical care because they had covered or broken the cameras” at Guantanamo’s communal section called Camp 6.
The largest known hunger strike since the prison camp was established in January 2002 occurred in 2005 when Guantanamo “had a detainee population of 575 detainees with 142 detainees choosing to hunger strike in July,” according to House.
30 of those detainees, on average, were being “enteral fed,” according to House. Enteral feeding is when a tube is placed up the detainee’s nose, down the back of their throat and into their stomach. A nutritional supplement is then pumped into the detainee’s stomach.
This practice is regularly referred to as force-feeding, though Guantanamo officials refuse to identify it as such.
“I refuse to say ‘force-feeding,’” House said to AFP. “It refers to a cartoon where individuals are strapped, yelling, screaming, mouth open and food is dumped down the person’s throat and that is not the case.”
“We will continue to prevent people from starving. It is by all means the rights of detainees to protest, however it is our mission to provide safe, secure and a humane environment and we will not allow our detainees to starve themselves to death,” House said.
The Constitution Project, on the other hand, said in a recent report that “forced feeding of detainees is a form of abuse and must end.”
In a press conference after the report by the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment was released, Dr. Gerald Thomson made some even more pointed statements, seen in the clip below.
“The World Medical Association and international officials have clearly identified that process as cruel, in human and degrading treatment,” Thomson said. “And given the level of brutality could extend to torture.”
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross has also condemned the force-feeding practice.
Omar Farah, an attorney for Guantanamo detainees, said that one of his clients “reports he was force-fed to the point he was overly full and he would vomit, being strapped down. The regime was so harsh that eventually he gave up.”
The New York Times even published an op-ed by a Guantanamo Bay detainee named Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel.
“I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way,” he wrote. “As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”
The concerns surrounding the hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay are numerous, but perhaps most worrisome is the fact that many of these individuals could have been released.
Even though they have been cleared for release, they are being held without charge or trial and subjected to what some clearly argue is far from acceptable treatment.
How long this will continue is anyone’s guess at this point.
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