[The following reports was issued by Reprieve in July 2013.]
Down the Tubes: The 2013 Hunger Strike at Guantanamo Bay
Guantánamo Bay detainees have been on hunger strike since February this year, in protest against their ongoing detention without charge or trial. Despite President Obama’s description of the prison as “a symbol around the world for an America that fl outs the rule of law,” he has repeatedly failed to take the concrete steps available to begin closing Guantánamo. Hunger strikes are a tool of last resort. They reveal the abject desperation of the majority of men in Guantánamo. At the time of publication, the Defense Department’s figures indicate that at least 106 detainees are on hunger strike. Forty-five of them are being force-fed.
This report exposes the hunger strike at Guantánamo from the inside, in the words of the men engaged in it. It collates unclassifi ed testimonies from strikers’ letters, calls, and visits with lawyers about the situation at the prison today. The testimonies show 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 fi nds evidence of heavy-handed tactics being used by the prison authorities in an attempt to break the strike. 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, resulting in 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 discouraging such calls and therefore restricting the fl ow of information from the prisoners to the outside world
- The use of solitary confi nement to “prevent them from achieving solidarity,” in the words of the Guantánamo authorities’ Standard Operating Procedure.
Reprieve is calling on the US authorities to cease these heavy-handed tactics and address the fundamental grievance underlying the hunger strike: indefi nite detention beyond the rule of law. President Obama could do so immediately by directing the Secretary of Defense to sign the necessary waivers to allow those prisoners who have been cleared for release by the US Government to be released. This would be a concrete first step towards his overall goal of closing Guantánamo.
[Click here to download the full report.]