The Red Cross has expressed concern about the two-month-old hunger strike by
Guantanamo Bay prisoners, some of whom are being force-fed, as the US
military said 26 were on strike but their lawyers insisted the figure
The strike that began on August 8 over conditions and lack of legal rights
is the most widespread of a handful of such protests since the prison camp
at the US naval base at Guantanamo in Cuba opened in January 2002, the New
York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) said.
US army Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Martin, a Guantanamo spokesman, said 26
detainees were taking part in a "voluntary fast", including 22 hospitalised
for "involuntary feedings" involving food given through a nasal tube and
fluids given intravenously. Some rights activists have criticised this force
Martin said the number peaked at 131 last month and has since steadily
declined. "The detainees are all clinically stable, closely monitored by
medical personnel to ensure that they don't harm themselves - and will
continue to receive appropriate nutrition, fluids and excellent medical care
" Martin added.
Amnesty International rejected Martin's account.
"Even the language that they're using is totally indicative of the fact they
re trying to minimise this," said Amnesty International official Jumana Musa
"What is a 'voluntary fast'? This didn't start because of Ramadan (the
current Islamic holy month in which Muslims fast). That's a voluntary fast.
This is a hunger strike, which is basically people pledging to starve
themselves to death."
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva underlined its
"There is a hunger strike, the situation is serious, and we are following it
with concern," said ICRC spokeswoman Antonella Notari.
The hunger strike is the latest flash-point between the US government and
human rights groups over the camp, which activists call a blight on the US
human rights record.
The Centre for Constitutional Rights, along with affiliated lawyers,
represents more than 200 of the approximately 505 detainees at Guantanamo.
CCR lawyer Barbara Olshansky said her group estimates about 210 prisoners
are taking part in the hunger strike, and accused the military of
deliberately understating the strike's scope.
Olshansky acknowledged her group had not been able to perform a systematic
head count of participants at the secretive prison, and said the estimate
was based on data gathered by lawyers visiting detainees in recent weeks.
Australian terrorist suspect David Hicks is among some 505 detainees being
held in the prison. Human rights groups have denounced these indefinite
detentions and treatment they say amounts to torture. Most detainees were
picked up in Afghanistan after the United States invaded in 2001 to oust the
Taliban government and dislodge al-Qaeda bases.
The hunger strike began after the military reneged on promises given to detainees to bring the prison into compliance with the Geneva Conventions, CCR said. Detainees were willing to starve themselves to death to demand humane treatment and a fair hearing on whether they must stay at the prison, it said.
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