Twelve activists were arrested outside of a Federal Courthouse in New York City on Monday after protesting in response to a recent confession by Guantanamo Bay prison officials that 84 detainees are on hunger strike and 16 of them are being force-fed, an act considered by many to be a form of torture.
The activists, representing the group Witness Against Torture, were arrested after staging a "die-in" on the steps of the court. Some dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods to resemble Guantanamo prisoners and some held signs with names of the men who have already died in the prison.
“The hunger strike,” says Jeremy Varon, an organizer with Witness Against Torture, “is the predictable result of a failed policy of indefinite detention that is morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable. If action is not taken to change that policy, more prisoners will die and our nation’s shame will deepen.”
“I took part in the protest at the Federal Court,” says North Carolina resident Beth Brockman, “because justice is broken when men who our government has no plans to charge or put on trial ... are held for years.”
“Shaker Aamer, the sole UK citizen still at Guantanamo,” added protestor Brian Hynes, “recently pleaded, ‘I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children.’ These words, from a man cleared for release 6 years ago, haunt me. The United States is slowly killing men in a prison that should never have existed. This nightmare must end.”
The prisoners' lawyers have said that most of the 166 prisoners are on hunger strike, rather than the 84 the prison officials now admit to.
Last week guards at Guantanamo attempted to end the hunger strike with an early morning raid of the prisoners' communal cell-blocks, forcing them into isolated one-man cells—a confrontation which lead to the firing of "non-lethal rounds" by prison guards.
"As a result, the number of those acknowledged as hunger striking by the US military has sharply climbed," Witness Against Torture stated. "Sixteen of the men are being force fed — a painful practice condemned by human rights organizations and described in testimony from Samir Mukbei published in the New York Times on April 14."
More than half of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo have been “cleared for release” but remain in custody indefinitely.