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Over 100 Guantánamo Hunger Strikers Protest Cruelty of Indefinite Detention

Lawyers raise flags about prisoners' deteriorating health and worsening 'humanitarian crisis'

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the surveillence of US military police at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo: Shane T. Mccoy/ AFP)

Over 100 prisoners in Guantánamo Bay's Camp 6 have reportedly joined in a hunger strike in protest of the worsening conditions amidst the "crushing reality" of indefinite detention.

Camp 6 houses an estimated 130 men, the majority of the 166 detainees still incarcerated at Guantánamo.

Reacting to the worsening "humanitarian crisis" at the prison, members from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) testified at a hearing Tuesday before the international human rights body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), "marking the first time since President Obama’s re-election that U.S. officials were confronted with questions about Guantánamo and its future in a formal public setting."

"In light of the humanitarian crisis unfolding at Guantanamo, it is indefensible that the U.S. government failed to answer the Commission’s simple questions about how it plans to close the prison camp," CCR said in a statement released Tuesday. Representatives before the IACHR testified on issues including the "grave psychological impact of indefinite detention, the deaths of men at Guantánamo, the lack of access to fair trials, and illegitimate U.S. policies that restrict the closure of the prison, including the blanket ban on repatriating Yemeni men."

Protests within the prison have grown as well, with reports of over a hundred men having joined the hunger strike now in its fifth week.

Pardiss Kebriaei, an attorney with CCR representing Yemeni detainee Ghaleb Al-Bihani, said, "My client and other men have reported that most of the detainees in Camp 6 are on strike, except for a small few who are elderly or sick."

Prompted by concern over the failing health of the striking detainees, twelve attorneys sent a letter (pdf) last week to the commander of Guantánamo, Rear Admiral John Smith, denouncing "a matter that appears to be rapidly deteriorating and reaching a potentially critical level."

"We have received reports of men coughing blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued," said the letter. 

AFP adds:

According to Kebriaei, her client—on hunger strike for 30 days—has "lost over 20 pounds and has been told by medical personnel that his health is in serious danger as he is also a diabetic."

Another lawyer, Barry Wingard, said one of his three clients, Kuwaiti Fayez Al-Kandari, lost 12 kilos (26 pounds) in three and a half weeks. 

Al Jazeera's "Inside Story" has this report on the hunger strike and the failing state of Guantánamo:


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