Since September, as the result of an opaque administrative policy shift, medical officers at Guantanamo have stopped force-feeding hunger strikers and stopped monitoring their deteriorating health. This move betrays a disregard for the lives of the men held prisoner there.
At least 4 men have been on hunger strike since 2013. Kalid Qassim is one of the hunger strikers and a “forever prisoner,” one of the 26 men who are being held indefinitely without charge or trial date. Here’s an excerpt from Qassim’s statement to the Guardian about the new medical regime:
“I started hunger strike because I was so frustrated, so depressed – I have been locked up here so far from my family for 15 years. I have never been charged with a crime and I have never been allowed to prove my innocence. Yet I am still here. And now Donald Trump says that none of us – the 26 “forever” prisoners who have apparently committed no crime, but merit no trial – will ever leave here so long as he is in charge.
Some will say I brought the pain on myself. But how can that be? I did not ask to be brought here. I did not do anything that justified being kidnapped and hauled half way around the world. It is true that there have been times when I thought I would be better off dead. This was the only peaceful way I thought I could protest. What I really want, for me and for the other men here, is justice. Certainly, I never wanted to die in the pain I’m now in.”
A Pentagon spokesman quoted in the New York Times stated that the shift reflected a worry that past force-feedings had “potentially encouraged future hunger strikes.” The idea that the promise of force-feeding, widely regarded as a form of torture, could engender hunger strikes is preposterous.
David Remes, attorney for Abdul al Salam al Hilal, one of the hunger strikers, offered a more believable explanation to the Times. He asserts that the military is “playing chicken” with the strikers, hoping that withholding medical care will make hunger striking so dangerous that the strikers will abandon their protest. Clive Stafford Smith, an attorney with Reprieve reported on their website that his client Ahmed Rabbani has no plans to end his hunger strike. Rabbani told him “ I don’t want to die, but after four years of peaceful protest I am hardly going to stop because they tell me to. I will definitely stop when President Trump frees the prisoners who have been cleared, and allows everyone else a fair trial.” But the U.S. government would rather gamble with people’s lives than provide justice.
Once again the captors at Guantanamo Bay have proven themselves unfit with their wanton disregard for the lives of the men in their charge. There is no reform, no fix that could right the wrongs against man and nature committed at Guantanamo Bay. We do not advocate a return to the torturous policy of force-feeding but an end to the hunger-strike by heeding the strikers calls for rights and humane treatment.
Take Action: Tell Secretary Mattis to close Guantanamo Prison and the release of all those cleared for release, with provisions and reparations for men who were tortured and/or are being unjustly detained.