Advocates for the detainees say there are now over 100 prisoners participating in the hunger strikes.
US forces clashed with detainees at Guantanamo Bay in a raid conducted Saturday morning with the goal of moving the prisoners from their communal cell blocks into maximum security single cells. According to the Miami Herald, the detainees were moved in an attempt to end the hunger strike that has been going on for more than 2 months. According to a statement issued by the prison, “Some detainees resisted with improvised weapons and, in response, four less-than-lethal rounds were fired. There were no serious injuries to guards or detainees.”
The pre-dawn operation took place hours after delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross left the remote island prison and during a blackout of news media access to the crisis in the prison camps.
The scenario described by the military — individual men locked one to a cell, maximum-security style, in a facility designed for communal medium-security confinement — returned the prison camps to an austere detention approach dating back to the Bush administration.
Lawyers for the captives said a wide-ranging hunger strike was underway, and some described seeing long-held, once plump prisoners wasting away before their eyes. The strike, they said, was sparked by what the captives considered abusive searches of their Qurans but was fueled by years of frustration at their status of legal limbo.
Before the raid the military had considered 43 detainees to be on a hunger strike, but after medical staff examined each prisoner individually that number has gone up to more than 65 out of the 166 men being held at the Navy base in Cuba. Reports indicate that at least 13 of those are being force-fed. Just under 100 of the detainees were cleared for either “release or transfer” back to their home countries years ago, but because of Congressional restrictions on releases, they remain “trapped” in “POW-style status” at Gitmo. Human Rights Watch has identified many of the hunger strikers as “pre-cleared captives” who are still being held. Andrea Prasow, the HRW counsel said that although it is understandable that the military is attempting to re-establish control over parts of the camp, “the new maximum-security lockup regime means that the captives ‘are essentially being punished for acting out their despair.’”
Photo: AP/Michelle Shephard