Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

The hunger strike at Guantanamo and the promises of Obama

The hunger strike in the prison has gone on for 100 days. The United States and President Obama are in the worst possible way dealing with the issue. It is known that 90% of the detainees were never officially charged with any crime. After five years of government, it is past time for the president to fulfill his campaign promises.

By Steven Hsieh, of AlterNet

Last Friday (17th) marked the 100th day since the beginning of the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, which recaptured international attention to the prison that President Obama promised to close when trying to get elected five years ago.

Military officials said 102 of the 166 prisoners are participating in the strike. Lawyers for the prisoners say that number is close to 130.

Since the hunger strike began 100 days ago, international groups, including the European Parliament, the Commission on Human Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and several nations with prisoners at Guantanamo pressured the Obama administration to release the detainees or close the prison.

Here are four of the most disturbing facts about the situation in Guantanamo.

1. The torture of forced feeding

Thirty of the 166 prisoners held at Guantanamo are being forcibly fed - a practice that is considered torture and a violation of international law by the human rights office of the UN. Earlier this week, the ACLU (abbreviation for "American Civil Liberties Union"), and also a considerable number of human rights organizations sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, highlighting the order on forced feeds at Guantanamo.

While the military says it would be "inhumane" to let prisoners starve, several medical groups and human rights organizations disagree.

"Under these circumstances, to go ahead and feed people by force is not only an ethical violation, but can be raised to the level of torture or ill-treatment," said Peter Maurer, coordinator of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The military forced feeding procedure involves pushing a tube in the nose of the prisoner through the sinuses, throat and into the stomach. The process inflicts great pain and discomfort.

According to an analysis of military documents made by Al Jazeera, prisoners are shackled and forced to "remain seated wearing masks over their mouths for about two hours" as a nutritional supplement is pushed into their stomachs."  At the end of the feeding, the prisoner is removed from the chair and led to a 'dry cell' no running water," says the Al Jazeera account. "Then a guard watches the prisoner for 45-60 minutes 'to oversee any indication of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting.  If the prisoner vomits, they fasten him in his chair."

 2. Alleged attempts to "disintegrate" the strikers

There were several allegations that guards at Guantanamo are abusing the strikers with the purpose of "disintegrating them." Lawyers of Yemeni prisoner Musaab al-Madhwani say the guards chase strikers denying them drinking water, forcing them to drink from unsafe water taps, and maintaining their cells at temperatures "extremely icy," reported Agence France-Presse.

Another lawyer told Russia Today that guards are pulling prisoners on the strike out of general living spaces and forcing them to live in individual cells to weaken them mentally.

3. Over half of the Guantanamo prisoners had their cases clarified to be released. Ninety percent were never accused of any crime

Of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo, 86 have had their cases dismissed to be released, but legal and bureaucratic barriers still keep them imprisoned indefinitely.

First, Congress imposed restrictions on transfers of detainees, requesting evidence that the possible transfer never would offer any kind of threat to U.S. national security in the future. At a press conference last month, President Obama reiterated this fact, saying that he "would need help from Congress." Yet, as several analysts have pointed out, Congress also secured from Obama the power to transfer prisoners, a power he never exercised.

Complicating the process are 56 Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo. As explained byAlex Kane, Yemen is "a powerful U.S. ally who also has problems with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that planned attacks against the U.S.. After a terrorist plot that supposedly originated in Yemen was intercepted, the Obama administration has decided to prevent the repatriation of prisoners to Yemen. "

4. No chance to escape but a coffin

The hunger strike began as a response to the abuse of personal items such as prisoners' Korans, committed by prison guards. But many analysts, organizations and prisoners pointed out that this was just the last straw. The strike is the frustration of prisoners being kept away from their families in inhumane conditions, some held for more than 11 years.

"These men are not starving to become martyrs ... They do it because they are desperate," said Wells Dixos one of 5 lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees. "They are desperate to be free from Guantanamo, they see no other option than to leave in a coffin."

Samir Naji Al Hasan Moqbel, explained in a phone conversation published in the opinion page of The New York Times, that the hunger strike is conducted as a last resort:

"The situation is now desperate. All prisoners are suffering deeply ... I've vomited blood.

"And there is no end to our forecast imprisonment. To refuse eating and risking my life every day is the choice we made."

"I just hope that, because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will return to Guantanamo before it's too late. "

* Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant, writer for the website AlterNet.

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Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova