Gitmo Update: Activists Begin Solidarity Hunger Strike Demanding End To Guantanamo Prison
Activists with the human rights group Witness Against Torture (WAT) began a hunger strike last week in solidarity with dozens of detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison who have gone without food for weeks to protest inhumane conditions at the detention facility. Eight of the Guantanamo hunger strikers are in grave physical condition, having lost enough weight that doctors are now force-feeding them liquid nutrients.
“We will gather for action in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities domestically and internationally next week to denounce the barbaric practice of torture and indefinite detention and to demand justice for the men at Guantanamo,” WAT announced on its website.
The solidarity fast by WAT began on Sunday and is scheduled to last through March 30. A handful of activists plan to continue fasting every Friday until the prison is closed.
The group has also called upon supporters to flood the prison with letters in support of detainees and to tell prison authorities “that the world has not forgotten the hunger strikers.”
Earlier this month, lawyers for Guantanamo detainees reported that more than 100 men were on hunger strike to protest the confiscation of personal items and religious texts. Later reports by Robert Durand, director of public affairs for the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), indicate that as of March 19, 24 out of the 166 still held at the facility are on hunger strike.
Since opening in 2002, roughly 774 detainees have been held at Guantanamo Bay prison without charge, trial or due process of law. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have claimed that the detentions are illegal and that prison authorities have used waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other methods of torture against the detainees.
Prior Mint Press coverage on this issue:
(MintPress) – More than 100 prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison are engaged in a mass hunger strike to protest inhumane conditions at the secretive penal colony. Lawyers representing the detainees have reported that many of the men are in grave physical condition, with some possibly on the brink of death.
“My client and other men have reported that most of the detainees in Camp 6 are on strike, except for a small few who are elderly or sick,” said Pardiss Kebriaei, a New York lawyer representing Yemeni detainee Ghaleb Al-Bihanim.
The hunger strike allegedly began in early February after prison guards began confiscating personal items including blankets, sheets, towels, mats, razors, toothbrushes, books, family photos, religious CDs and letters.
The most inflammatory action sparking the revolt occurred when guards confiscated Qurans that were reportedly “desecrated” in a manner offensive to detainees.
Prison officials deny these allegations, claiming that there was “no desecration of Qurans by guards or translators.”
The latest incident continues years of alleged torture and abuse at the Guantanamo Bay facility that has housed 779 detainees without trial or due process of law since it was opened by the Bush administration in 2002.
Many of the detainees thought to be terrorists have been wrongfully held for months, later released after U.S. officials found the individuals to be innocent.
Mohammed Sadiq, an 89-year-old Afghan man suffering from acute dementia and prostate cancer, was among those cleared for released after months of interrogation during his illegal imprisonment in 2002. Interrogators found that he had no connection to al-Qaeda, the Taliban or any terrorist organization.
Prison officials acknowledge that there is a hunger strike but insist that there are far fewer participants than the roughly 100 reported by the lawyers.
Robert Durand, director of public affairs for the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, reports that there are nine detainees refusing food, five of whom are being fed through tubes inserted into their stomachs.
Human rights organizations have consistently called upon the Obama administration to close Guantanamo, a promise he campaigned on leading up to his election in 2008.
“Amnesty is calling for Obama to close Guantanamo. It has been over a decade of human rights violations. Our campaign has been going on for years pressing the government to resolve the cases by either trying the prisoners or releasing them,” said Amnesty spokesperson Zeke Johnson in a statement to Mint Press News.
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