Guantánamo Hunger-Strike Enters 3rd Month

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On 6th February many of the men still held in prison at Guantánamo Bay stopped eating.

Over two months ago men still held in prison at Guantánamo Bay stopped eating. Lawyers and supporters of the 166 men still detained on Guantánamo say that well over 100 of the inmates are on hunger strike.

The strike began as a protest against increasingly repressive tactics at the prison, which included the searching of Qur'ans. But now the men are protesting against their never-ending imprisonment. 86 of the men detained at Guantánamo have actually been cleared for release but under US law can be neither released nor repatriated.

As CagePrisoners pointed out in a recent press release, "Having already lost over eleven years of life to indefinite detention without charge or trial, the prisoners have little more to lose than their own body weight and lives."

Closing Guantánamo was one of the many promises made by Obama when he was campaigning to become president of the US. One of the first executive orders he signed after being elected was an order to empty it. Yet at the end of 2011 he signed another executive order - this time it was a law legalising indefinite detention. The designation of many of the people held at Guantánamo was changed from 'unlawful enemy combatants' to 'unprivileged enemy belligerents'. Another law passed by congress this year prohibits the transferring of Guantánamo prisoners to US soil and requires security guarantees before they can be sent elsewhere.

The people still detained at Guantánamo cannot be released even after being declared unsuitable for trial as they are declared too dangerous to release. Since Obama got into office there has been 'a virtual halt in releases'.

Hunger-strikes have occurred regularly over the 11 years that Guantánamo Bay has been in operation and the US regularly resorts to force-feeding the men, as they are doing this time. They currently acknowledge that more than ten men are being force-fed. In 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Commission noted that the force-feeding of people at Guantánamo amounted to torture. The Red Cross and various medical bodies also have policy that doctors should not be involved in force-feeding.

The difference about this hunger-strike is it is the first camp-wide protest and the first one that appears to be getting international coverage and even implicit support from the UN.

On 5th April, in calling for the closure of Guantánamo, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that "a hunger strike is a desperate act, and one which brings a clear risk of people doing serious lasting harm to themselves. I always urge people to think of alternative, less dangerous, ways to protest about their situation. But given the uncertainty and anxieties surrounding their prolonged and apparently indefinite detention in Guantánamo, it is scarcely surprising that people’s frustrations boil over and they resort to such desperate measures."

People are fighting for the men to be released.

One lawyer filed an 'Emergency Motion for Humanitarian and Life-Saving Relief' on behalf of her client, a man imprisoned for over ten years. In the application he states:

"I, and other men here at the prison, feel utterly hopeless. We are being detained indefinitely, without any criminal charges against us, and even the 86 men who have been cleared for release remain here in the Guantánamo Bay prison."

"I am dying of grief and pain on a daily basis because of this indefinite detention."

The people in Guantánamo cannot be forgotten.

Regular protests against Guantánamo continue in various places around the world and on Thursday 11th April nationwide protests are planned in the US to support the Guantánamo inmates and close the prison.

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