Little reaction from human rights watchdogs as Gitmo hunger strike continues

March 21st, 2013

Published on Russia Today RT, March 19, 2013.

After 42 days on hunger strike, though acknowledged by the US military, the protest by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has so far been largely unacknowledged by international humanitarian organizations.

In a comment to RT the United Nations rights body said it is investigating allegations of mistreatment at America’s detention facility in Cuba … //

… Prison spokesman Navy Capt. Robert Durand, however, acknowledged only 21 inmates to be on hunger strike. He also denied all allegations of prisoners being mistreated.

Even if not for mistreatment and abuse, prisoners could have started the strike just to draw attention to their being kept in Guantanamo, with the US refusing to repatriate them, despite some being cleared for release.

There are 166 people at Guantanamo. Of those there are probably 20 guys who are bad guys… like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The other people… more than half of them – 86 of them have been cleared at least for three years and some during the Bush administration – cleared as innocent people. And they are still there and they are frustrated, says Thomas Wilner, a lawyer, who used to represent some of the Guantanamo detainees in court.

According to Durand, none of the inmates on hunger strike is in immediate health danger.

Lawyers for the prisoners believe otherwise. They have reported some of their clients had weight loss of up to or more than 20 pounds (8kg) and have been hospitalized. Medical experts say that by day 45, hunger strikers can experience potential blindness and partial hearing loss.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and habeas counsel have sent a letter to US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, urging him to address this growing crisis at Guantánamo before another man dies at the prison, this time under his watch. The hunger strike should be a wake-up call for the Obama Administration, which cannot continue to ignore the human cost of Guantánamo and put off closing the prison any longer.

Meanwhile, JTF-GTMO announced that flights to the island prison from South Florida will be terminated on April 5. The step is seen by the prisoners’ attorneys as an attempt by the Defense Department to limit access to their clients.
(full text).

Links:

Gitmo press agent admits 21 inmates taking part in growing hunger strike, on RT, March 18, 2013;

US admits Gitmo hunger strike spreading, on RT, March 16, 2013;

Failing health feared for Gitmo inmates on hunger strikes, on RT, March 15, 2013;

Over 100 Guantanamo inmates on hunger strike, possibly in grave condition, on RT, March 12, 2013.

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