Why is there a Hunger Strike at Guantánamo?

Saturday, March 16, 2013
Guantánamo prisoner

Nearly two-thirds of the detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay are said to have been on a hunger strike for more than a month to protest the U.S. military’s treatment of their personal possessions, including Korans. On Friday prison spokesman Navy Capt. Robert Durand denied that the hunger strike was widespread, but did acknowledge that 14 prisoners were “hunger strikers” and that at least five are being force fed through tubes.


The hunger strike began on February 6 after guards confiscated detainees’ letters, photographs and legal mail, during which copies of the Koran were roughly handled during searches.


Having already written to the relevant authorities at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantánamo, 51 lawyers representing the detainees have appealed to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to help end the mass hunger strike, which reportedly involves more than 100 of the 166 prisoners at the facility. Of the 166, 86 have been cleared for release, but are being held anyway; 34 are awaiting trial; and 46 have been recommended by President Barack Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force to be held indefinitely without charge or trial.


The attorneys have warned that the strike is adversely affecting the detainees’ health, while the U.S. military has played down the scale of the protest.


Some prisoners have lost more than 20 or 30 pounds, and “at least two dozen men have lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels, which have dropped to life-threatening levels among some,” according to the letter to Hagel.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

U.S. Acknowledges 14 on Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Prison (by Carol Rosenberg, Miami Herald)

A Huge Hunger Strike at Guantánamo (Andy Worthington)

Help End Guantanamo Hunger Strike, Lawyers Ask Pentagon Chief (by Jane Sutton, Reuters)

Hunger Strike at Guantanamo after Koran Searches (by Chantal Valery, Agence France-Presse)

The Man Behind a Landmark Case: Finding a Life after 7 Years’ False Imprisonment at Guantánamo (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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