Dec. 30, 2005 – At least 46 people held at the GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba detention camp joined a disputed number of fellow detainees already refusing food in protest of their indefinite detention last week, the Department of Defense said in a statement yesterday. The announcement puts the official number of prisoners still fasting at 84.
- Guantanamo Abuses Caught on Tape, Report Details (Feb 2, 2005)
- As Gitmo Hunger Strike Continues, Lawyers Step Up Fight for Access (Oct 31, 2005)
- Gitmo Access Offer Fraught with Restrictions (Oct 31, 2005)
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other humanitarian groups maintain that the real number of detainees refusing food could be much higher, a contention that is impossible to verify because the prison facility is closed to nearly all visitors.
Two months after the hunger strike began, CCR and other detainee lawyers put the number who have been involved in the fast at over 200. But the military told The NewStandard that the number topped off at 131 and had dropped to about 26 in October.
In a recent statement released by the Southern Command, the military said the number of participants fluctuated with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks and with the arrival of detainee lawyers, possibly accounting for the discrepancies between the two sides.
"This technique [hunger striking] is consistent with Al-Qaeda training and reflects detainee attempts to elicit media attention and bring pressure on the United States government to release them," the statement added.
The new hunger strikers refused food on Christmas day, according to the military, and joined a five-month fast kept up by detainees to draw attention to what they, human rights groups and their lawyers say are inhumane conditions outlawed by international accords and domestic law. The renewed strike comes amid accusations from the United Nations that long-term hunger striking detainees have been treated cruelly
According to UN torture investigator Manfred Nowak, prison guards and doctors involved in force-feeding some of the prisoners did so with particular zealousness, causing an unspecified number to bleed and vomit. Nowak was among the investigators who had previously turned down an invitation to visit the camp, citing access restrictions imposed by the US.
Thirty-two hunger strikers have been hospitalized and force-fed through nasal tubes, a prison camp spokesperson told the Boston Globe. In late October, US District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the Defense Department to notify the lawyers of prisoners it intends to force-feed before doing so.