Over a Third of Guantánamo Detainees on Hunger StrikePublished Friday, July 22nd, 2005
Americas - 14:04 GMT
World Crisis Web
The Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that a hunger strike is in operation amongst detainees at the notorious Guantánamo Bay prison camp, amid claims by recently released prisoners that the number refusing food is as high as one hundred and eighty.
Protesting abuse, poor living conditions and a lack of legal rights, according to two recently released detainees, Habir Russol and Moheb Ullah Borekzai, the detainees intend to remain on hunger strike until death, if need be, in their attempt to get conditions improved.
Yesterday, after the hunger strike became public knowledge, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed the prisoners’ protest, but claimed that only 52 detainees were still refusing food.
Speaking to reporters, military spokesperson Bryan Whitman, said that the strike began three days ago, that the participants are receiving medical attention, water and Gatorade (rehydration fluids), and claimed that some have already begun eating again.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents some of the those incarcerated at the prison camp, confirmed today that detainees planned to begin a hunger strike in late June, in solidarity with those held in Guantánamo Bay Camp 5, who are frustrated by their indefinite detention and the inhuman conditions there.
In a statement released today, CCR said that conditions at Guantánamo are unacceptable: “The vast majority of prisoners live in appalling conditions in the other camps - and every prisoner is suffering from the effects of indefinite detention without legal process”, said the statement.
Camp 5, which remains closed to outside visitors including political representatives, houses nearly 100 prisoners.
In recently declassified notes, the prisoners describe the planned hunger strike as follows:
According to CCR representatives, the prisoners have specified ongoing abuses and denial of their legal rights. To remedy this mistreatment, the prisoners have made the following demands:
Prisoners at Camp 5 have reported regular interference with the call to prayers by prison guards, and the broadcasting of unrelated messages in English over the call to prayer. Detainees are often held in solitary confinement for months at a time, with no access to sunlight, and complaints are repeatedly made by prisoners of a lack of sufficient food, and of contaminated drinking water.
“We are now hearing not from human rights organizations, attorneys, or the government but from the prisoners themselves that there are real and continued violations of human rights taking place at Guantánamo,” CCR Deputy Legal Director Barbara Olshansky stated. “How much longer does this Administration plan on turning a blind eye to these men and the decision of the Supreme Court to give them access to the U.S. legal system? They have languished in legal limbo for years with no fair trial and no definitive resolution of their legal status. All the while, our government continues to deprive them of the basic dignities that every human being is entitled to.”
CCR President Michael Ratner stated that “From the beginning, this Administration has blatantly misrepresented who is imprisoned in Guantánamo and what treatment the prisoners are subjected to. This call for a hunger strike is the last straw. It is clear that the military cannot be trusted to police itself and that an independent commission is required to end the military’s cover-up in Guantánamo.”
Over 500 prisoners remain imprisoned at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, which was recently revealed as having been used as a testing ground for abuses later used at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. After three and a half years of detention, most are still being held without charges, although a minority are being given military trials described as unjust by most international observers.
This week, the White House threatened to veto a Senate bill for defense program funding if it moves to regulate the Pentagon’s treatment of detainees, or if it sets up a commission to investigate operations at USA prison camps, including Guantanamo, used to incarcerate those held in its so-called “war on terror”.
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