Guantanamo Hunger Strike: Pentagon Disputes Numbers

There has been a mass hunger strike going on since February at Guantanamo, mostly by detainees in Camp Six, the least restrictive unit. According to a letter from more than 50 defense lawyers to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, available here, almost all of the 134 detainees in Camp Six are engaged in the hunger strike, and they are dropping like flies.

The Defense Department disputes the numbers, and insists only 14 are being force-fed: 9 involved in the current strike and 5 who always go on hunger strikes. The photo above is of a restraint chair used to force-feed detainees at Gitmo.

The Defense Department spokesmen said one of those [9] hunger strikers, plus five other detainees who have conducted hunger strikes on and off for years, are currently being subjected to enteral feeding, or the forcing of liquid nutrients through a tube down their nose while strapped to a chair.

Defense lawyer David Rames, who represents 14 inmates at Gitmo and saw 6 of them last week, says his clients’ conditions are shocking and none are being force-fed. He says the detainees have to be near death before authorities intervene and force-feed.

The Pentagon claims most of the detainees aren’t really on a hunger strike but snacking at night on food from the “pantries.”

The immediate cause of the strike appears to be a changing of the guard force. The new guards allegedly resumed mass searching of private effects in cells, including Korans.

In early February, detainee attorneys say Guantanamo guards renewed searches of detainee cells and confiscated personal items such as photographs, letters, legal papers, exercise mats, blankets, towels, and tooth brushes. The tipping point, the attorneys say, occurred when the guards began searching detainee Korans, something guards had not done since 2006.

The Pentagon denies guards touch, let alone mishandle, the detainees’ Korans.

Another catalyst: a guard fired his weapon into the recreation yard.

On Jan. 2, a Guantanamo guard fired a rubber crowd-dispersal round from a tower into a group of detainees in the fenced-in recreation area of Camp Six. Defense Department spokesman Breasseale said the single round consisted of 18 blueberry-sized rubber balls and one hit a detainee, but he was not injured.

More on that here.

The underlying reason for the strike is the detainees’ frustration that after 11 years, they are no closer to leaving.

Remes said their imprisonment for 11 years without charges was an underlying cause of the hunger strikes. “It adds insult to injury that they have been approved for transfer. The reality is no one is leaving; everyone is in indefinite detention.”

The letter to Hagel follows a March 4 letter (available here) the lawyers wrote to the Commander of the Guantanamo Joint Task Force and the Staff Judge Advocate.

Specifically, we understand that since approximately February 6, 2013, camp authorities have been confiscating detainees’ personal items, including blankets, sheets, towels, mats, razors, toothbrushes, books, family photos, religious CDs, and letters, including legal mail; and restricting their exercise, seemingly without provocation or cause. Moreover, we understand that Arabic interpreters employed by the prison have been searching the men’s Qur’ans in ways that constitute desecration according to their religious beliefs, and that guards have been disrespectful during prayer times. These actions, and the fact that they have affected so many men, indicate a significant departure from the way in which the rules have been formulated and implemented over the past few years.

As a result of these practices, we understand that the men are suffering greatly and that a large number have gone on a hunger strike, which is now in its third week. As their health has deteriorated, we have received reports of men coughing up blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued, and being moved to Camp V for observation. Detainees have also expressed feeling increased stress, fear, and despair. It is clear that their health will only worsen unless and until the hunger strike ends, which requires taking immediate steps to address the reasons for their protest.

There are currently 166 detainees at Guantanamo. 86 have been cleared for release. 34 are awaiting trial. Another 46 have been recommended for indefinite detention without charges by the Guantánamo Review Task Force.

Carol Rosenberg has more at the Miami Herald.

One of Obama’s senior Guantanamo advisors last week, speaking at a meeting of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said the Administration has no plans to effectuate the transfers of those cleared for release to Yemen.

He also said the administration has no plans in the “foreseeable future” to lift a moratorium on transfers to their home country of Yemenis cleared for release.

A law professor quoted in the article says:

“The grim reality of Guantánamo today . . . is that death or a conviction for a supposed war crime by the military commission are surer ways out of Guantánamo than the U.S. government’s own processes of clearing people for release,” said Ramzi Kassem, an associate professor at City University of New York School of Law and an attorney for some detainees. He noted that 50 of the 95 Yemenis held at Guantánamo have been cleared for release but have no place to go because of the moratorium on sending Yemenis home.

The Obama official refused to answer a question about a timeline for closing Gitmo.

22 Replies to “Guantanamo Hunger Strike: Pentagon Disputes Numbers”

      1. I think it’s because I had it set so that you got five or ten free reads before having to to subscribe. I’m going to change that. Let me know if you still don’t see it.

  1. Testing the new system….and commenting that by refusing to release people that have been cleared for release our government is apparently afraid to reap what it has sown by imprisoning these men for 11 years. Disgusting.

  2. Hey Jeralyn, I signed up for the annual pass, and it lets me into this post fine, but not the Matthew Keys post.

  3. Alrighty then. I am here and $20 has been given to a much deserving enterprise. Thanks for all you do. Be pretty interesting to see how works for you as you are about the same size we are, give or take, in readership.

  4. I just signed up for the year. Process seemed simple enough and I consider the $20 well worth it.

    1. Don’t know what to tell you about this. I already had a WordPress account, with my username and avatar. If you click on your username way at the top of the site in the black strip, you will be able to see your profile. Maybe there is a way to add your avatar there, I don’t know, since I did not need to try it. Good luck!

  5. No problem singing up and getting a year pass.

    I would note three things.
    – The options for paying are numerous including CC and PayPal. I mention this because at TL-old you only mentioned the one. I personally love PayPal for the fact I don’t have to type all my info and it’s not being shelved in another database.
    – I love the cleanness of the site; A+ on visuals. The sidebar on TL-old took up some very valuable real estate.
    – I would pay $50 to keep the ads of this site.

    I am also very excited about checking it out on my phone because in the past, the type size variance from the post to the comments made it virtually impossible to use of a phone.

  6. Okay – I purchased the one-year pass – so far, so good. When I go to Log In, it takes me to the WordPress Dashboard, and darn if I can figure out how to get to TLP from there. If I click on the site, I am logged in, but in order to read, I have to go through the “already purchased?” link and enter yet another set of e-mail and password. And then I get “you have access to this item,” as opposed to what I expected, which was just, well, access.

    Seems cumbersome to me, but perhaps I’m not doing this right.

    Am I correct that there’s no “Preview” screen, and coding for bold, italics, underlines has to be done manually?

    1. Hi Anne. I did not set something up correctly and Tiny Pass is working on fixing it. As soon as we have it straightened out, I’ll post.
      As to comment tags for punctuation, I will add a different comment tag plugin with more options as soon as I get the registration ironed out.
      I think the cumbersome login is because I put the site-wide access option and the individual post option on the individual post option and they should be separately designated. I’ll keep you all posted.

      1. thanks, Jeralyn – wasn’t sure if everyone was having the same experience, so this is good to know!

    2. If you wind up on Dashboard, Anne, try clicking on “Talk Left Premium” at the upper left in the black bar that runs across the top of the page. There should be a “view site” option, which if you click on it, will take you here.
      WordPress will take some getting used to. 😉

  7. J- new comments are not highlighted in so way on TLP. On regular TL I can tell at a glance what comments have been added since I last read through a thread. That way I do not find myself re-reading comments. Is there a way to add something like that to TLP?

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