NEW YORK - July 21 - The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) confirmed today that in late June, prisoners planned to begin a hunger strike the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station's Camp 5 facility. Attorneys representing the detainees received word of the strike from currently held detainees who are frustrated by their indefinite detention and the inhuman conditions at Guantánamo, specifically at Camp 5. News of the hunger strike has been corroborated by recently released detainees and statements today by the Department of Defense.
Despite recent attempts by the DOD to tout living conditions at Camp 4, where a small number of prisoners clothed in white jumpsuits are cooperating with interrogators, the conditions at Guantánamo remain 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. Camp 5, which has remained closed to outside visitors including political representatives, alone houses nearly 100 prisoners. According to Shearman and Sterling, the prisoners' description of the planned strike reflects their peaceful demand to be treated as human beings. In recently declassified notes, the prisoners describe the planned hunger strike as follows:
- The protest is "a peaceful, nonviolent strike until demands are met;"
- The strike "calls for starvation until death;"
- The prisoners plan to boycott showers;
- They plan to boycott their recreation time;
- Some prisoners plan on refusing to wear clothes in order to be equal to the living conditions of prisoners in other camps who are denied clothing;
- The protesters call for "no violence, by hand or even words, to anyone, including guards."
When asked by Shearman and Sterling for the reasons behind the hunger strike, the prisoners described specific ongoing abuses and cited the denial of their legal rights. To remedy this treatment, the prisoners were planning to demand the following from the Guantánamo command:
1) We need respect for our religion, including an end to the desecration of the Koran and religious discrimination;
2) We need fair trials with proper legal representation;
3) We need proper, human food and clean water. We are not given adequate amounts of food and the food is often old and inedible. The water is frequently dirty and tastes contaminated;
4) We need to see sunlight, and not be forced to go months without seeing daylight;
5) We need to know why we are in Camp 5 for so long, in some cases for over a year. What have the Camp 5 detainees done to be treated so much worse than the other detainees?
6) We need basic human rights like everyone else in the world - including real, effective medical treatment;
7) We need to be able to contact our families, and write to them and receive letters. Some prisoners have not received any of the letters sent by their families, their families have not received any of the prisoners' recent letters, and this is a widespread problem across the camp;
8) We need the "level system" of various Camps and privilege levels to be abandoned and everyone treated equally;
9) We need a neutral body to observe the situation and report publicly about the conditions at Guantánamo.
According to CCR the demands verify continued reports of religious discrimination. Prisoners have repeatedly reported interference with the call to prayers by prison guards and the broadcasting of unrelated messages in English over the call to prayer. Additionally, attorneys have voiced concern for detainees held in solitary confinement for months at a time, with no access to sunlight. Despite DOD tours which highlight the detainees' treatment, the prisoners have also repeatedly complained of a lack of sufficient amounts of food and contaminated drinking water at Camp 5.
"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."