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New Report Exposes Violent Tactics Used to Break Guantanamo Hunger Strike
WASHINGTON - A new report released today by human rights charity Reprieve uses Guantanamo detainees' testimony to expose the violent tactics being used by the Obama administration in an attempt to break the ongoing hunger strike.
The report - Down the tubes: The 2013 Hunger Strike at Guantanamo Bay – collates unclassified testimony from the men to expose the hunger strike from the inside, in the words of those engaged in it. The first-hand testimony is organised around themes that emerged from the men’s words, including force-feeding as punishment, Forcible Cell Extractions (FCE’s), forced medication and solitary confinement.
The report shows the impact of the hunger-strike – some detainees have lost as much as a quarter (Shaker Aamer) or even a third (Ahmed Rabbani) of their weight. Others report health problems including chest pain, low blood pressure, and problems with their sight. More worryingly, it finds evidence of prison authorities using heavy-handed tactics in an attempt to break the strike. Among other things, the detainees report:
- The frequent use of violent procedures known as Forcible Cell Extractions (FCEs) against those who refuse food, resulting in one example in aggravation of old injuries (Abu Wa’el Dhiab).
- The use of unnecessary force during the force-feeding process, causing vomiting or bleeding in some cases.
- A new regime of invasive genital searches for any detainees wishing to take calls from family or legal counsel, or attend meetings – thought to be aimed at restricting the flow of information from the prisoners to the outside world.
- The use of solitary confinement to “prevent them from achieving solidarity,” in the words of the Guantánamo authorities’ Standard Operating Procedure.
The report comes amid enormous pressure on President Obama to resolve the escalating crisis at the prison. On Monday, in a case brought by Reprieve and co-counsel Jon Eisenberg, a US Federal Judge in Washington, DC, urged President Obama to address the hunger strike. Judge Gladys Kessler said in a ruling that “it is perfectly clear…that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating, and degrading process.” The President, she stated, “has the authority – and power – to directly address the issue of force-feeding of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.”
The hunger strike began in February 2013. At least 106 men are striking to protest their indefinite detention, and 45 are being force-fed – a practice denounced by the UN and the World Medical Association as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or torture. Over half of Guantánamo’s population has been cleared for release.
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and Guantanamo counsel, said: “For President Obama the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay has gone from an irritation to being the crisis that may define his second term. And yet he could stop it all tomorrow by releasing cleared men – like my clients Shaker Aamer, Nabil Hadjarab and Younous Chekkouri. So why won’t he?”
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.