A first-hand account from a prisoner at Guantánamo reveals the abusive tactics prison authorities are using to break the prisoners' hunger strike.
A colonel in charge said that “Any person who continues on the hunger strike will be moved to a solitary confinement and will be removed from communal areas,” Yemeni detainee Samir Moqbel told his lawyer, Cori Crider, who works with the UK-based charity Reprieve.
When Moqbel, who's been held at the prison for 11 years without charge or trial, refused to hand over his blanket, shoes and toothbrush to authorities as punishment for taking part in the hunger strike, he told Crider that "they brought the ERF [Emergency Reaction Force] team. They came in and hit me, and beat me. I was bleeding from my mouth.”
"The guards who were holding me hit me on my face, my stomach, my legs. The person holding me on my neck and face held me very, very strongly and he hit me on my face with his hand," Moqbel told Crider during an unclassified phone call.
He was asked to fork over the basic necessities when he and others were moved from Camp V to VI, where he said the treatment is "really, really bad," and he was told, "you are being punished, you are under disciplinary action."
"I have not done anything for this. Why would you punish me? I have not done anything wrong," Moqbel told them.
Moqbel is one of 56 Yemeni prisoners at Guantánamo who's been cleared for release but remains indefinitely detained.
There are over 100 Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention, with over 45 of them being force-fed, "an unequivocal violation of international human rights law."
Reprieve also detailed abusive tactics by prison officials in their report from earlier this month, Down the Tubes: The 2013 Hunger Strike at Guantanamo Bay, including excessive force used in force-feedings, genital searches for detainees taking calls from legal counsel and using solitary confinement to “prevent [detainees] from achieving solidarity.”
In April, Moqbel issued a statement published by the New York Times describing the cruelty unleashed by the prison officials to the hunger strikers, stating
there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.
I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.
"I do not want to die here," he added, "but until President Obama and Yemen’s president do something, that is what I risk every day."
Yemen's president, Abdo Rabby Mansour Hadi, is scheduled to meet with Obama on Thursday.