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Update on Guantánamo: Hunger strike ends but Amnesty remains concerned about welfare of detainees
Amnesty International has received a statement from a detainee in Guantánamo Bay, reporting that an unknown number of detainees resumed their hunger strike on 12 August.

According to the statement, from UK resident Benyam Mohamed al-Habashi, the strike resumed after the US military broke a number of promises it made in July to secure the end of the first hunger strike.

In his statement, which was recently unclassified by the US authorities, Benyam Mohamed al-Habashi said: "[The US authorities] have betrayed our trust. Therefore the strike must begin again...I do not plan to stop until I either die or we are respected. People will definitely die".

Background

When detainees decided to end the initial hunger strike on 28 July they claimed that the US administration had agreed to bring the prison camp into compliance with the Geneva Conventions within 10 days, and they had been told this had been personally approved by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The latest hunger strike began because the detainees remain unable to challenge their detention and their continuing harsh treatment by US guards at the camp. In his statement, Benyam Mohamed al Habashi noted two particularly brutal removals of detainees from their cells by a group of prison camp guards known as the Extreme Reaction Force: one of a Kuwaiti detainee, and the other of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who has been in Guantánamo Bay since 2002, when he was 15 years old.

He also states that a detainee from Morocco called Hisham was "savagely beaten in his interrogation" and that this was another cause of the detainees restarting the hunger strike. In addition, it appears that other concessions made by the US military, including the establishment of a committee of detainees who have regular meetings with the authorities at the prison camp, have not been implemented.

Benyam Mohamed al Habashi claims that "we [the hunger strikers] ask only for justice: treat us, as promised, under the rules of the Geneva Conventions.. while we are held, and either try us fairly for a valid criminal charge or set us free"

About Guantánamo Bay

Detainees held as part of the "War on terror" began to be held in Guantánamo Bay on 11 January 2002. More than 750 people have since been detained there, of whom about 500, of some 35 nationalities, remain in the base.

None of the Guantánamo detainees has had the lawfulness of their detention subjected to judicial review, a year after the US Supreme Court ruled that the US courts have jurisdiction to hear appeals from them.

Take action

Please send a letter to the US authorities:

  • expressing concern at reports that detainees in Guantánamo Bay have resumed their hunger strike because the promises made to them by the US authorities were not kept, and the fact that detainees are still unable to challenge the legality of their detention;

  • calling on US authorities to investigate all alleged acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in Guantánamo Bay, and for those responsible for such acts to be brought to justice;

  • calling for detainees to be released unless they are to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried in full accordance with international standards for a fair trial;

  • calling for an independent, impartial investigation into "war on terror" detentions, including into allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, secret and incommunicado detention and illegal transfers of detainees to countries where torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is common;

  • calling on the US authorities to close the Guantánamo detention facility, and for all US "war on terror" detention facilities to be opened up to external independent scrutiny

Addresses:

    President George W. Bush
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington DC 20500
    USA
    E-mail: comments@whitehouse.gov
    Fax: 001 202 456 2461

      Salutation: Dear President Bush

    Donald Rumsfeld
    Secretary of Defense
    The Pentagon
    Washington DC 20301
    USA
    Fax: 00 1 703 697 8339


      Salutation: Dear Secretary of Defense

    Please send appeals immediately.

  • Click Here for Guantanamo Bay information page.

Guantanamo Bay Red Cross concern over hunger strike
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 exceeded 200.

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 feeding.

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 concern.

"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.

  • Click Here for Guantanamo Bay information page.

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