U.S. reports surge in Guantanamo hunger strike
By Will Dunham
12/29/05 -- -- WASHINGTON, Dec 29 (Reuters) - The number of
Guantanamo Bay prisoners taking part in a hunger strike that began
nearly five months ago has surged to 84 since Christmas Day, the
U.S. military said on Thursday.
Forty-six detainees at the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at
the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, joined the protest on
the Christian holiday on Sunday, said Army Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin, a
The prisoner population, which the Pentagon says numbers about 500,
is believed to be uniformly Muslim. Only nine have been charged with
"There's been a significant increase in the number that have been
added to the hunger strike," Martin said by telephone from
Lawyers for some of the detainees call the strike a protest of jail
conditions and prisoners' lack of legal rights. The military has
denied allegations of torturing detainees.
Medical personnel were force-feeding 32 of the hunger strikers with
plastic tubes inserted into the stomach through through the nose,
the military said. Asked the purpose of the force-feeding, Martin
said, "Because our policy is to preserve life."
Military officials define a hunger striker as a detainee who has
refused nine straight meals, and often refer to the strike as a
"voluntary fast" and force-feeding as "enteral feeding."
The detainees began the strike in early August after the military
reneged on promises to bring the prison into compliance with the
Geneva Conventions, their lawyers said. Detainees are willing to
starve to death to demand humane treatment and a fair hearing on
whether they must stay, the lawyers said.
Most of the detainees were captured in Afghanistan and have been
held for nearly four years.
'ALLOWED TO DIE'
Amnesty International official Jumana Musa said this week's surge
illustrates the strike's seriousness.
"You are talking about a prison population of hundreds who have
decided that with no conceivable change in their future that they
just don't care to live anymore, or they are going to make a
statement in dying," Musa said.
Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, a lawyer for three detainees including
Bahraini striker Isa Almurbati, said, "Isa told me that he will end
the hunger strike when he is sent home. His philosophy is that he
should be sent home or allowed to die because the idea of spending
the rest of his life at Guantanamo without any due process is simply
In a statement, the military said a hunger strike "is consistent
with al Qaeda training and reflects detainee attempts to elicit
media attention and bring pressure on the United States government
to release them."
Martin said the peak participation in the strike was on Sept. 11,
the fourth anniversary of the attacks on America orchestrated by the
al Qaeda network, with 131 detainees taking part. Human rights
lawyers have estimated at least 200 detainees were participating at
"Enemy combatants on voluntary fast are closely monitored by medical
professionals, receive excellent medical care, and when required,
the appropriate amount of daily nutrition and hydration through
enteral feeding," the statement said.
In an October court filing, Julia Tarver, a lawyer for detainees,
said U.S. personnel violently shoved tubes through the men's noses
and into their stomachs without anesthesia or sedatives. "When they
vomited up blood, the soldiers mocked and cursed at them, and
taunted them with statements like 'look what your religion has
brought you,'" Tarver wrote.
Martin said called "totally false and baseless" allegations of
deliberately inflicting suffering in this feeding process.
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