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US Admits Gitmo Hunger Strike Spreading

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: Guantanamo, hunger strikers, protests, health risk, illness, humanrights, violation, UN, justice system, US )

- 1926 days ago -
Capt. Robert Durand denied that the hunger strike is "a widespread phenomenon, as alleged," by the captives' lawyers, and blamed them of spreading "outright falsehoods and gross exaggerations." He downplayed the reports of a mass strike at Gitmo.>>

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Angelika R (143)
Saturday March 16, 2013, 10:14 am
*** Watch Video ****

The US Military said Friday that 14 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison can be defined as hunger strikers, five more than they had previously reported. Lawyers have said that more than 100 inmates are taking part in the five-week-long protest.

One of the strikers was taken to the prison hospital, Guantanamo detention center spokesperson Navy Capt. Robert Durand said Friday. Five others are being fed through tubes put through their noses into their stomachs, while eight others are not yet sufficiently malnourished to merit such treatment, he said.

Durand denied that the hunger strike is “a widespread phenomenon, as alleged,” by the captives’ lawyers, and blamed them of spreading “outright falsehoods and gross exaggerations.” He downplayed the reports of a mass strike at Gitmo, saying that most of the alleged strikers are skipping regular meals, but substituting them with snacks.

“Refusing prepared meals and choosing to subsist for a time on snack foods does not constitute a hunger strike,” Durand said.

Earlier, layers said most of the 130 prisoners held at Camp 6, where the majority of Gitmo’s 166 prisoners are incarcerated, are taking part in a hunger strike. Fifty-one attorneys wrote Thursday to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel calling on him to intervene.

The huge disparity in the numbers of strikers reported by Guantanamo staff and by the lawyers is explainable by the fact that the definition of a hunger striker is in the hand of authorities, said Pardiss Kebriaei from the Center Constitutional Rights, one of the complainant lawyers.

“Our understanding is that based on previous standards the determination of who is a hunger striker is a discretionary determination that the Guantanamo makes,” she told RT. “If the definition of a hunger striker is entirely in their control and is a matter of their discretion, then I think that explains how they are able to say that there are no more than a handful of men on hunger strike.”

Tensions in the notorious prison, where the US detains terror suspects, apparently started last month after a new rotation of US Army soldiers took over guard duties from a Navy force. Some prisoners complained to their layers of aggressive searches, which included confiscations of personal items and handling of Korans that the inmates found sacrilegious, as most are devout Muslims.

Durand confirmed the reports that some of the detainees had their Korans taken from them, but called it an attempt at manipulation: “If we accept their Koran, it would be portrayed as either an admission that it required protection and safekeeping, or as a confiscation by the guard force, depriving them of the religious articles needed to practice their faith.”

He also insisted that all searches are conducted in a regular way, and that no mistreatment of Muslim holy books has taking place at Gitmo.

“I am not clear if the spokesperson for Guantanamo understands exactly what the problem is here. ‘Mishandling’ does not mean burning the book or ripping out pages. It means touching the Koran and searching the Koran by their jailers,” Kebriaei said.

The US facility at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay is among the darkest legacies of the post-9/11 'War on Terror.' Many detainees there are being held in legal limbo without trial. Half of the prisoners have been cleared for release, but still remain in custody.

The scarcity of information about the development is partially due to the secrecy maintained by the prison. The communication barriers in place have been an obstacle for human rights organizations for years, Rob Freer of Amnesty International told RT.

“We have to wait until a detainee is released, before we can speak to them. This leads to underreporting on individual detainee cases and at least to a time lag. The lawyers themselves are not there the whole time and it requires declassification of certain information when they do get to,” he said.

President Barack Obama promised to shut down the notorious prison at the start of his first term in office, but failed to deliver.

Kit B (276)
Saturday March 16, 2013, 11:08 am

The president must wait for Congress to agree before he can shut down Guantanamo Prison. We now know about the hunger strikes, we know about the constant terror tactics used, the betrayal of our own moral values, and yet it goes on, and with many that still claim this is a "protection" from terrorist. I think not, rather it is a cause from recruiting new young terrorists.

roxy H (350)
Saturday March 16, 2013, 12:11 pm
UGH, Gitmo.. what a plague...this place needs to be SHUT DOWN! a long time ago dammit!!!

Angelika R (143)
Saturday March 16, 2013, 12:39 pm
I definitely agree with Kit. thank you for speaking it out. We know congress must approve the closing down which of course, they never will. And few other countries have voluntarily taken inmates despite the earlier call to do so.

Kit B (276)
Saturday March 16, 2013, 1:10 pm

We have tried some of these suspected terrorists in US courts, evidence was presented to a jury, they each had legal representation, almost all were found to be guilty. Though I personally may question the validity of some of that evidence, it was done according to laws of this land. To do anything less is a statement that we do not trust our own courts or system of justice.

Rose B (141)
Saturday March 16, 2013, 4:41 pm
Hate this place

Fiona Ogilvie (565)
Saturday March 16, 2013, 6:44 pm
Hunger strikes can accomplish so much. Saint Patrick's Day always reminds me of this fact.

Giana Peranio-paz (398)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 1:27 am
The terrorists in our prisons also go on hunger strikes and I don't always know if it is a justified act or not. We really don't have all the facts and it's easier just to believe they were all tried justly and incarcerated justly.

Many Feathers (139)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 5:14 am

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 7:27 am
@ Giana- I can understand your emotions, - that is human nature. But in a democracy you don't choose the easy way but the one and only just way if there is evidence. As for the"administrative detention" there surely IS enough evidence to disprove your beliefs.
(Administrative detention= arrest and detention of individuals by the state solely on the basis of an administrative order, without either indictment or trial, usually for security reasons.)

Deborah W (6)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 1:05 pm
Personal choice ... food is available.

Winnie Adams (179)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 1:50 pm

Nelson Baker (0)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 2:00 pm
The food is available to them, if they don't want to eat it is their choice. Let them starve. I have no sympathy for them.

Lois Jordan (63)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 2:33 pm
Noted. I agree Gitmo must close, and have been asking POTUS and the Congress to do that for awhile. The hunger strike is a peaceful method of protest.

Gloria H (88)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 4:20 pm
Everyone deserves a fair trial. Everyone. Otherwise we are not really the fair country we paint ourselves to be. Maybe there is a hermit in the Ozarks that has never heard of 9/11, but we still need to find a jury and give these people a trial. We are no better than any dictatorship that locks people away without trial. This is not the America that I pledged alligance to as a kid.

Birgit W (160)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 4:41 pm

Robert K (31)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 8:07 pm
Personally I don't believe Gitmo should be shut down. I think it would be a perfect place to send every Republican holding office in Washington.

Robert K (31)
Sunday March 17, 2013, 8:10 pm
FWIW, one of the first things Obama did was ask congress to close it. He has no power to do so, just the ability to approve the passed legislation which hasn't come because of Republican obstruction.

Parvez Zuberi (7)
Monday March 18, 2013, 2:29 am
All International norms have been violated at Gitmo prisoners are treated in such a way that you will not even dream of treating the animals in such a manner officers and US GOVT responsible are WAR CRIMINALS

Angelika R (143)
Monday March 18, 2013, 2:31 pm
@ Robert K- perfect comment! Maybe THAT is their reason for disapproving that bill.. ;) Call it "home securing" if you like.

John Coleman (18)
Monday March 18, 2013, 2:38 pm
GOOD!!!!! Let them all starve themselves and end their existence and then they can get their reward of whatever the most recent cont of virgins is allotted to them. Keep in mind than when most of these "poor unfortunates" are released they go back on the terror circuit.

Syd H (0)
Monday March 18, 2013, 4:54 pm
Why worry about the RIGHTS of these terrorists. They gave no thought to the RIGHTS of American, British and other allied military personnel when they planted IEDs or shot them. They gave no thought to the RIGHTS of innocent civilians including small children when their mates exploded bombs in crowded markets and on buses.
If they want to die, let them, the civilised world will not miss them. If they are on hunger strike and refusing food given to them at tax payers expense, ensure that they cannot obtain snack foods either.

Angelika R (143)
Monday March 18, 2013, 5:32 pm
Syd -a really sad answer. Why worry about rights? Because RIGHTS are FOR EVERYONE and US claims to be a democracy!

Winnie Adams (179)
Monday March 18, 2013, 6:22 pm

John Coleman (18)
Monday March 18, 2013, 7:28 pm
Angelika: The US is a representative republic and not a democracy per se. Constitutional rights are not granted to non citizens not on US soil in most circumstances which is one reason why these low lifes are in Gitmo. They actually get a lot better treatment and more "rights" than most people in the world and even some US citizens like the guy the Obama administration threw into the slammer for the supposed anti Mohammad video the administration lied about causing the Benghazi attack. Since this isn't a war with a national entity that can seek a peace agreement, these "POWs" are likely to be held indefinitely

Dorothy N (63)
Tuesday March 19, 2013, 1:38 am

... President Barack Obama promised to shut down the notorious prison at the start of his first term in office, but failed to deliver ... ????????????

House acts to block closing of Gitmo
In blow to Obama, ban on detainee-transfer funds part of spending bill

By Stephen Dinan

The Washington Times

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Congress on Wednesday signaled it won’t close the prison at Guantanamo Bay or allow any of its suspected terrorist detainees to be transferred to the U.S., dealing what is likely the final blow to President Obama’s campaign pledge to shutter the facility in Cuba.

The move to block the prison’s closure was written into a massive year-end spending bill that passed the House on Wednesday evening on a vote of 212-206, part of a last-minute legislative rush by Democrats to push through their priorities before ceding the House to Republican control in January.

News of the Guantanamo provision brought a quick and sharp rebuke from the Obama administration Wednesday.

“We strongly oppose this provision,” Department of Justice spokesman Matt Miller said in a statement. “Congress should not limit the tools available to the executive branch in bringing terrorists to justice and advancing our national security interests.” ...

... The bill does kill funding for some programs entirely, including the Homeland Security Department office that was responsible for coordinating Gulf Coast rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

On Guantanamo Bay, by blocking the administration from spending money on a replacement prison or any prisoner transfers, Congress would effectively stop the administration from acting over the next year.

And with Republicans dead-set against closing the prison, and poised to take control of the House in January, chances are virtually zero that Congress will relent any time before Mr. Obama stands for re-election in 2012. ...

... Closing the prison was one of Mr. Obama’s chief campaign pledges and was one of the first orders he issued after being inaugurated last year, when he set a one-year deadline for closure. But he’s struggled to carry it out, failing to meet his deadline and battling both Republicans and Democrats in Congress who fear a prison on U.S. soil would be riskier and could confer new rights on detainees. ...

Bush Insider Reveals Guantanamo Deception:
Hundreds Of Innocents Jailed

By Bill Quigley

20 April, 2010

Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, provided shocking new testimony from inside the Bush Administration that hundreds of the men jailed at Guantanamo were innocent, the top people in the Bush Administration knew full well they were innocent, and that information was kept from the public.

Wilkerson said President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld “indefinitely detained the innocent for political reasons” and many in the administration knew it. The wrongfully held prisoners were not released because of political maneuverings aimed in part to cover up the mistakes of the administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who served in the U.S. Army for over thirty years, signed a sworn declaration for an Oregon federal court case stating that he found out in August 2002 that the US knew that many of the prisoners at Guantanamo were not enemy combatants. Wilkerson also discussed this in a revealing and critical article on Guantanamo for the Washington Note.

How did Colonel Wilkerson first learn about the innocents in Guantanamo? In August 2002, Wilkerson, who had been working closely with Colin Powell for years, was appointed Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State. In that position, Wilkerson started attending daily classified briefings involving 50 or more senior State Department officials where Guantanamo was often discussed.

It soon became clear to him and other State Department personnel “that many of the prisoners detained at Guantanamo had been taken into custody without regard to whether they were truly enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them were enemies at all.”

How was it possible that hundreds of Guantanamo prisoners were innocent? Wilkerson said it all started at the beginning, mostly because U.S. forces did not capture most of the people who were sent to Guantanamo. The people who ended up in Guantanamo, said Wilkerson, were mostly turned over to the US by Afghan warlords and others who received bounties of up to $5000 per head for each person they turned in. The majority of the 742 detainees “had never seen a U.S. soldier in the process of their initial detention.”

Military officers told Wilkerson that “many detainees were turned over for the wrong reasons, particularly for bounties and other incentives.” The U.S. knew “that the likelihood was high that some of the Guantanamo detainees had been turned in to U.S. forces in order to settle local scores, for tribal reasons, or just as a method of making money.”

As a consequence, said Wilkerson “there was no real method of knowing why the prisoner had been detained in the first place.” ...

... “The initial group of 742 detainees had not been detained under the processes I was used to as a military officer,” Wilkerson said. “It was becoming more and more clear that many of the men were innocent, or at a minimum their guilt was impossible to determine let alone prove in any court of law, civilian or military. If there was any evidence, the chain of protecting it had been completely ignored.”

Several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this early on and knew “of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released,” wrote Wilkerson.

So why did the Bush Administration not release the men from prison once it was discovered that they were not guilty? Why continue to keep innocent men in prison?

“To have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers,” wrote Wilkerson.

“They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released,” according to Wilkerson. “I am very sorry to say that I believe there were uniformed military who aided and abetted these falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.”

The refusal to let the detainees go, even those who were likely innocent, was based on several political factors. If the US released them to another country and that country found them innocent, it would make the US look bad, said Wilkerson. “Another concern was that the detention efforts at Guantanamo would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were. Such results were not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at the Department of Defense.”

At the Department of Defense, Secretary Rumsfeld, “just refused to let detainees go” said Wilkerson. ...

... President Bush was involved in all of the decisions about the men in Guantanamo according to reports from Secretary Powell to Wilkerson. “My own view,” said Wilkerson “is that it was easy for Vice President Cheney to run circles around President Bush bureaucratically because Cheney had the network within the government to do so. Moreover, by exploiting what Secretary Powell called the President’s ‘cowboy instincts,’ Vice President Cheney could more often than not gain the President’s acquiescence.”

Despite the widespread knowledge inside the Bush administration that the US continued to indefinitely detain the innocent at Guantanamo, for years the US government continued to publicly say the opposite – that people at Guantanamo were terrorists.

After these disclosures from deep within the Bush Administration, the newest issue now before the people of the U.S. is not just whether the Bush Administration was wrong about Guantanamo but whether it was also consistently deceitful in holding hundreds of innocent men in prison to cover up their own mistakes.

Why is Colonel Wilkerson disclosing this now? He provided a sworn statement to assist the International Human Rights Clinic at Willamette University College of Law in Oregon and the Federal Public Defender who are suing US officials for the wrongful detention and torture of Adel Hassan Hamad. Hamad was a humanitarian aid worker from Sudan working in Pakistan when he was kidnapped from his apartment, tortured and shipped to Guantanamo where he was held for five years before being released.

At the end of his nine page sworn statement, Wilkerson explains his personal reasons for disclosing this damning information. “I have made a personal choice to come forward and discuss the abuses that occurred because knowledge that I served an Administration that tortured and abused those it detained at the facilities at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere and indefinitely detained the innocent for political reasons has marked a low point in my professional career and I wish to make the record clear on what occurred. I am also extremely concerned that the Armed Forces of the United States, where I spent 31 years of my professional life, were deeply involved in these tragic mistakes.”

Wilkerson concluded his article on Guantanamo by issuing a challenge. “When – and if – the truths about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be revealed in the way they should be, or Congress will step up and shoulder some of the blame, or the new Obama administration will have the courage to follow through substantially on its campaign promises with respect to GITMO, torture and the like, remains indeed to be seen.”

The U.S. rightly criticizes Iran and China for wrongfully imprisoning people. So what are we as a nation going to do now that an insider from the Bush Administration has courageously revealed the truth and the cover up about U.S. politicians wrongfully imprisoning hundreds and not releasing them even when they knew they were innocent? Our response will tell much about our national commitment to justice for all.

Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill can be contacted at

Kathryn Niell (112)
Tuesday March 19, 2013, 11:25 am
The situation at Guantanamo has always infuriated me. I don't care if the detainees are not American citizens, the excuse used to deny them the right to due process of law. Keeping these men confined in this manner is a complete violation of human rights. President Obama should close the prison, release the prisoners to their own countries to be dealt with and end this shameful episode in U.S. history. America will not stop being the target of terrorists if it continues to act as it has in Guantanamo and the Middle East.

M B (62)
Tuesday March 19, 2013, 12:39 pm
Gitmo must be closed, it's so wrong, and I agree with Kathy Niell...." release the prisoners to their own countries to be dealt with and end this shameful episode in U.S. history."

Deborah W (6)
Tuesday March 19, 2013, 1:19 pm
Durbin and the gang haven't yet found a way to bring detainees to the Illinois as-yet new and unused facility they have in mind. Until that's accomplised, Gitmo will remain.

Carla van der Meer (648)
Tuesday March 19, 2013, 1:22 pm

John Coleman (18)
Tuesday March 19, 2013, 5:42 pm
Yes let's close Gitmo and pack up all the "poor misunderstood souls" there on an aircraft and fly them back toward the Middle East and drop them off half way from 30000 feet over the Atlantic. That would take care of all the whining by the support group for the radical islamists there. No more Gitmo and no hunger strikes. Plus they would get their virgins.

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Tuesday March 19, 2013, 6:34 pm
Thank you Anjelika, Kit, and Gloria. The article and the comments shed light on the situation. This will be a terrible stain on the history of this nation. Both parties are extremely flawed, but the do nothing block everything party is dangerous and destructive. The people in prison are human beings and deserve to have a trial.

Marc P (50)
Tuesday March 19, 2013, 7:08 pm
Syd Henley: As to your ignorant comment "Why worry about the RIGHTS of these terrorists." Here is a good reason: The U.S. government has clearly and openly stated that it can, at will, label YOU a terrorist. If that happens do you think you would like a trial, dumbass? As a citizen who's tax dollars are PAYING for Gitmo I would like to know exactly what these people did for me to have to pay to imprison them Unconstitutionally. If they are found guilty, sentence them legally and justly. If they are in fact innocent I don't want a dime of my tax money having to house them.

Marc P (50)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 5:50 am
John Gregoire: You state in your comment "Many who have been released turned back up killing our kids on the battlefield and elsewhere." Please substantiate this statement with some evidence. Also, if you had been imprisoned for years without trial or evidence for NO reason other than someone collected money for producing your body do you think that upon your release you might go back to your country and try to throw the enemy that did this to you out? Would your family hate that enemy for taking you away for years and assist your efforts? It is sad that so many people like you blindly believe government propaganda instead of doing a little actual research on your own.
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