Reportedly over 130 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have entered the 100th day of the hunger strike protesting their infinite detention. The U.S. government has denied and underplayed the hunger strike which began on Feb. 6, 2013, after cells were stripped and Qu’rans were searched following a fight with the guards.
“The 166 prisoners have been there 11 and a half years and 90 percent of them haven’t been charged with a crime,” according to RT.com. Approximately 86 prisoners have been cleared of any wrongdoing and slated for release but continue to be held indefinitely without any pending charges because there is no politically viable agreement about where or how to transport them out of Guantanamo.
Fifty-six of these are from Yemen, and President Obama has imposed a ban on releasing them. President Obama could use his bully leverage to close Guantanamo and release all the prisoners, despite his blaming Congress.
Since Guantanamo opened, conditions have violated the Third Geneva Convention, and torture was admittedly practiced until 2006. There have been at least six suicides and over 41 attempts, although it is also possible that these deaths were a result of torture. Following the discovery of three bodies hanging, Saudi Arabia actually removed their detained citizens out of concern for their safety.
“Hunger strikers who have been force fed describe it as the final humiliation,” reports RT.com. “There are three stages to the pain: Firstly there is the sensation of a tube being forced past their sinuses into their throat, which causes their eyes to water, then an intense burning and gagging sensation as it goes down the throat and finally when the tube enters the stomach there is a strong urge to vomit. When the tube has delivered the ‘food,’ it triggers the most painful sensation of all: the return of hunger.”
Currently three prisoners are in the hospital and 30 are currently being force fed with feeding tubes, a violation of international law for political prisoners.
Support for the prisoners is growing
A petition at Change.org titled “President Obama: Close Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay” has gathered over 208,000 signatures.
Seventy-one-year-old S. Brian Willson, a Viet Nam veteran member of Veterans For Peace, Portland Chapter 72, beginning Sunday, May 12, reduced his food intake by more than 85 percent, fasting on 300 calories a day in solidarity with the 130 uncharged Guantanamo prisoner hunger strikers now in deteriorating health, many of whom are being force fed.
Willson, a trained lawyer and criminologist, anti-war activist and author who lost his legs on the railroad tracks in Concord, California, when he was run over by the train he was trying to prevent from transporting weapons to Central America, lives by the mantra: “We are not worth more; they are not worth less.”
He joins 65-year-old grandmother Diane Wilson, a fifth-generation Texas shrimper, anti-war activist and author, who began an open-ended, water-only fast on May 1 outside the White House and intends to fast until the prisoners are freed.
More than 1,200 people around the country are participating in a rolling hunger strike to bring attention to the plight of the fasting prisoners at Guantanamo, who have been illegally detained for over 10 years with little recourse.
Conditions at Guantanamo are medieval
The 166 prisoners from 25 countries who remain housed in the U.S.-constructed and operated gulag at Guantanamo, located on Cuban soil without Cuba’s permission, have no contact with their families and only limited legal counsel when lawyers persist to overcome military obstruction.
Although the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, its maltreatment of these detainees openly violates international laws and its own Constitution.
Conditions at Guantanamo are medieval. Stripped of their dignity, their bodies are the only place where they retain some control, yet even this is taken away as their U.S. captors have induced force feeding to keep them alive in their misery.
The American Medical Association and the World Medical Association both declared that force feeding of competent patients or prisoners is in violation of international law.
The larger context
Of the 2,300,000 prisoners warehoused in 9,000 U.S. jails and prisons, nearly 1,400,000 are racial and ethnic minorities. As many as 80,000 are held in solitary confinement.
More than 30,000 immigrants are languishing in indefinite detention. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture has concluded that physical isolation of 22-24 hours one day or longer for young people constitutes cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.
Force feeding is not unique to Guantanamo; some U.S. prisoners are routinely and systematically force fed. The U.S. possesses but 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, owning the highest per capita detention rate of any country in the world.