Despite conflicting reports from the Pentagon and total silence from the Red Cross, prisoners at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have held several hunger strikes since 2002, protesting conditions and their prolonged confinement without any formal charges.
Nearly 1,000 men from over 40 countries have been imprisoned here since the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In four years, none of the inmates have been charged with any crime, prompting international demands that they either be charged and tried or released from custody.
According to British attorney Clive Stafford Smith, who represents several prisoners, the latest hunger strike began in August and continued through Sept. 17. He told reporters that the strike involved up to a third of the camp’s prisoners. U.S. military officials acknowledged that 20 prisoners in handcuffs and leg irons were being forced fed in the facility’s hospital.
Stafford Smith said that the current strike began when prisoners witnessed the abuse of Hisham Sliti by U.S. guards.
Kristine Huskey, a Washington lawyer representing three imprisoned Kuwaiti men, reported after a recent visit, “The situation in the camp itself is very bad. The hunger strike is far more widespread than the government is letting on.”
She added that lawyers visiting their clients are, as a condition of getting access to them, subject to censorship of their notes by the military. Attorneys had to get a federal court order to even get access the camp.
The Pentagon denied entry to the International Red Cross until the agency agreed not to disclose conditions in the camp.