More than half of the men held at the Guantanamo detention facility have joined a hunger strike to protest their open-ended detention.
According to the U.S. military, of the 166 prisoners, 84 are on hunger strike. Of these, 16 are being force-fed using tubes that go through their noses and down into their stomachs. An additional six have been hospitalized for observation.
How can there still be 166 prisoners at Gitmo?
“As President, I will close Guantánamo,” President Obama promised in 2007. What happened?
Hunger strikes have occurred at Guantanamo since shortly after the military detention center opened in 2002 as a facility to hold suspects captured in counter-terrorism operations.
This particular hunger strike began in early February and has escalated since then. Detainees have said that guards seized photos and other belongings during a cell search and also mistreated Korans.
Voice Of The Detainees
Abdulsalam Al-Hela does not understand why he and other Guantanamo prisoners reside in a perpetual state of legal limbo.
“Can it really be true that US, with all its power, all over the world, can’t solve the problems of 100 men?” he asked his attorney, David Remes, during a meeting in early March.
“Yes,” Remes told the Yemeni prisoner. “It’s true.”
No one knows what to do with these living artifacts of a post-9/11 world.
Some are waiting to stand trial for war crimes. Others – more than half – have been cleared by the US government to be returned to their homelands or other countries. All watch the days, weeks, months and years slip by without resolution, regardless of status.
Al-Hela, along with most of his fellow detainees, has been detained without charge or trial for nearly a decade.
These men are understandably desperate.
U.S. To Send More Medical Personnel
In response to the situation, the decision has been made to send additional medical personnel to the Guantanamo prison camp.
Fewer than 40 reinforcements will arrive by the end of April, according to Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House, a spokesman for the detention operation at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in southeastern Cuba.
How about working to close Gitmo instead of sending in a few doctors?
Of the 775 people detained in Guantanamo since its establishment, many have been found to be noncombatants with no ties to either the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Many of them were mistakenly apprehended or wrongfully turned over by anti-Taliban bounty hunters in Afghanistan. There are some truly horrific stories here.
Now just 166 prisoners remain in Gitmo, the majority of whom have either already been cleared or are expected to be cleared of charges due to lack of evidence.
So why are they still there?
According to the BBC:
Nearly 100 of the detainees have reportedly been cleared for release but remain at the facility because of restrictions imposed by Congress and also concerns of possible mistreatment if they are sent back to their home countries.
“How can the military, even the military, hope to maintain discipline over a prison camp where there is absolutely no hope for those men confined here,” said Lieutenant Commander Kevin Bogucki, a US Navy military lawyer who was visiting his clients at the base.
The hunger strike is the last resort of the frustrated and powerless, which is clearly why it’s happening in Guantanamo. In 1981, the Irish hunger strike did succeed, but not before ten prisoners had starved to death; in 2012, up to 900 prisoners began such a strike in Russia, to protest their abominable conditions; and in the prisons of California, a hunger strike was also used to draw attention to the plight of prisoners.
Isn’t it time we closed the Guantanamo detention center?
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