From RT News – A hunger strike that started over a routine cell search and escalated into a worldwide debate on the future of Guantanamo continues. For some, it may have expedited a release, but to others, it has brought only humiliation.
At its peak more than two-thirds of Guantanamo’s 166 prisoners refused food. More than 60 continue the strike at this time.
It began in February when several prisoners accused guards at Camp Delta of confiscating their books, letters and other personal possessions, as well as restricting their activities, for no obvious reasons. Several inmates also said that US officers mishandled the Koran.
But as time went by the strike numbers swelled, it became a protest at the ongoing existence of a prison in which more than half of the inmates have been cleared for release.
Even General John Kelly, who oversees the facility on Cuba’s south coast, has admitted that when ‘frustrated’ prisoners have no hope of freedom or even a trial (only 9 of those inside have faced charges), there is little for them to lose.
Despite US President Barack Obama’s repeated public opposition to Guantanamo, by the time the strike began, the chances for a legal resolution for any inmate were smaller than ever. For many of the prisoners, the US had deemed it unsafe to return them to their own countries, others were considered dangerous, but the evidence against them was either insufficient or obtained through torture and inadmissible in court (even if the torture had been performed by US allies in the first place).
With each passing year of the Obama administration, Congress made it more difficult for the president to find a compromise. By 2013, the US defense secretary had to personally guarantee that each inmate would not commit any future crimes against the country, and territories where recidivism attacks had taken place were not eligible altogether – even in cases where the prisoners themselves had been ruled innocent.
As prisoners began to collapse from low blood sugar, US officers ordered for them to be force fed, a practice that the UN Human Rights Commission has classified as ‘torture’, and which has been forbidden by the World Medical Association.
At one point during the strike, over 40 of the inmates were subjected to the practice.
During the once-a-day ‘meal’, captives, whom the US classifies as prisoners of war, are strapped into a chair, a tube is pushed into a nostril, and then a mainly protein-based solution is pumped into the digestive tract.
The UN’s chief rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, spoke to RT on several occasions, and in his latest interview on Monday, he continued to say he has still not been granted the kind of access that would facilitate an in-depth investigation of prison practices. This included not being given access into certain areas, as well as the privilege of interviewing an inmate of his choosing privately – both of which are key to the work Mendez does as inspector.
“The terms of visits to detention centers that I apply have been approved by the Human Rights Council. So I’m not asking the United States to give me preferential treatment, but I can’t give them preferential treatment either.”
A newly appointed envoy to oversee Guantanamo looks like a commitment to take the issue seriously, says Mendez. But he also noted that the Pentagon official, who for years has been in charge of Guantanamo on issues of detention, has admitted after resignation that the facility needs to be closed. Both are signs of a move toward progress, according to Mendez.
Accusations of misconduct, however, have continued to pour into the media – the most notable recent allegation having to do with sexual abuse and harassment. More…