Guantanamo Bay prisoners on strike out of despair

Prisoners in the U.S. prison Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been on a hunger strike for a month out of despair over the lack of prospects for a release. Nearly the entire camp is on strike, with the exception of the elderly and the sick. Many prisoners are in critical condition and are fed through a tube. "The list of Guantanamo" is active, and Russia should not care how it is treated in the U.S.

The strike was reported to the agency France Presse by Pardiss Kebriaei, a New York lawyer representing a Yemeni detainee Ghaleb Nassar al Bihani. According to him, prisoners went on a hunger strike in February to protest the confiscation of personal belongings and disrespect to the Quran. Kebriaei and lawyers of two other inmates testified at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington that the absence of any prospect of release, particularly for the majority of the 166 prisoners who have not been charged, created the atmosphere of despair at the U.S. base in Cuba.

A few days before the expose newspaper Daily Mail published a report on the wonderful conditions of the prisoners' life. According to the article published on March 11th, they are not suffering in damp and deserted dungeons, as commonly believed, but have access to Harry Potter movies, auto magazines and are even given strawberries. Apparently, the reader is expected to be particularly touched by the statement that those who eat meat are frequently offered halal beef for lunch and dinner with a choice of side dishes. 

Surprisingly, two days later, Robert Durand, Director of Public Relations of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, confirmed to the AFP that five prisoners were indeed fed through feeding tubes. He added that the refusal of food did not mean that an inmate was on strike. "A prisoner, or even the entire unit, may refuse a fresh, hot meal in the dining room, but we saw them eating in their rooms, which means that this food is enough for them,"   Duran said.

Given that the Americans tend to minimize and even hide the facts, the situation is really serious. In 2005, after a similar strike, over 18 inmates were hospitalized. Kebriaei said that his client lost over 20 pounds on the hunger strike in 30 days, but was denied medical care, even though his health was in serious danger because of diabetes. The lawyers also wrote a letter to the commander of Guantanamo, Rear Admiral John Smith. The letter mentioned that many detainees were coughing blood and fainted, and that the guards displayed insulting behavior and would break into a room during the prayer and remove the Quran. The situation is deteriorating rapidly and may reach a potentially critical level, wrote the lawyers. Duran commented on the complaint by saying that there have been no cases of desecration of the Quran by guards or translators, and there was nothing unusual during a routine search for contraband.

Most of the Guantanamo detainees are citizens of Muslim countries - Yemen, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Total to date there are 166 people. According to the lawyers, 130 prisoners are participating in the strike. Four years ago, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to close the camp. But then it turned out that not the release of prisoners was meant but a transfer to other U.S. detention, where they remained without charge. But even this interpretation caused opposition of Congress. In December of 2010, the deputies (both Democrats and Republicans) voted for a law banning the transfer of detainees from the U.S. Guantanamo, effectively blocking the closure of the prison. In addition, the law also prescribes that terror suspects must be brought before military courts, not the federal justice system, as proposed by Obama. The vote against the closure of the camp is supported by the "democratic" Americans. Public opinion surveys conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post in 2012 showed that over two thirds of respondents were in favor of maintaining the prison and only 24 percent believe that it should be shut down.

Meanwhile, some human rights lawyers say that the situation of human rights in Guantanamo Bay has actually worsened after Obama became president, and some, such as political scientist Ryan Dawson, called Obama a "liar." Dawson told Russia Today that he considered Barack Obama a liar who promised a lot, but did not try to shut down the prison at Guantanamo, and now it hosts even more prisoners than it used to when the president took office. The analyst said that the conflict could be resolved rationally, the confiscated items should be returned and the Quran should be treated with respect. He added that the situation could have been much worse, but they probably will just force-feed the prisoners and deny the hunger strike for as long as possible.

In October of 2012, the Duma approved the first list of U.S. citizens who are denied entry into Russia. These are 11 people involved in the establishment and operation of the prison at Guantanamo, secret CIA prisons, and torture of prisoners. The Russian side has not issued a visa to the former director of the prison at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson. In January of 2013 the list was expanded in response to the adoption by the U.S. Congress of "Magnitsky Act". According to some sources, it has about 60 names. It has nothing to do with the way the list is perceived in the U.S., but Russia does not intend to keep silence on human rights violations.

Lyuba Lulko


Read the original in Russian

Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov