The hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay is now in its third month. Aisha Maniar reports.
The Pentagon says about 40 prisoners are taking part, with 11 being force fed to keep them alive. Lawyers have put the figure at closer to 130 of the remaining 166 prisoners.
While the military has opted to play down the situation, the political response has been silence. A letter signed by all the US lawyers representing prisoners was sent to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in March, asking him to intervene “to address the underlying causes of the strike and bring it to a prompt and acceptable end.” There has been no response.
Having already lost over eleven years of life to indefinite detention without charge or trial, the prisoners have little more to lose than their own body weight and lives. Lawyers have reported that their clients view death as the most viable way out of Guantánamo Bay.
The only independent body with access to the prisoners is the Red Cross. Frustrated prisoners view it as an extension of the US government, lacking in independence and not doing enough. Similarly, the states the prisoners come from, which have obligations to their citizens, have not expressed concerns about the situation.
Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, a US military lawyer who represents several of the men at Guantánamo Bays asks why, if according to the authorities the situation is normal, officials are not inviting the world to see their prison conditions.
On March 30, hundreds of people attended a demonstration outside the US Embassy in Kuwait City to protest against the hunger strike and demand the return of the two remaining Kuwaiti prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Fawzi Al-Odah and Fayiz Al-Kandari.
Wingard states that “the US government either does not trust Kuwait or is ignoring it.” This is similar to the position of the British government and its demands for British resident Shaker Aamer to be returned to his family in London. No reasons for this refusal have been given by either the British or US governments.
An e-petition on the plight of Shaker Aamer — the last British resident still held by the US in Guantanamo — has secured over 111,000 signatures, triggering a parliamentary debate on his plight. Aamer is now in the eleventh year of his detention without charge or trial in Guantanamo where he has been subject to horrific and brutal mistreatment. He is in his third month on hunger strike. Protest