Agence France-Press & The New York Times – 2005-09-21 09:23:36
Guantanamo Hunger Strike Unnerves Authorities
(September 18, 2005) — A hunger strike at the US military’s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay has unsettled senior commanders and produced the most serious challenge yet to the military’s effort to manage hundreds of terrorism suspects, The New York Times reports.
Quoting unnamed lawyers and officials, the newspaper said as many as 200 prisoners — more than a third of the camp’s population — have refused food in recent weeks, to protest conditions and prolonged confinement without trial. While military officials put the number of those participating at 105, they acknowledge that 20 of them, whose health and survival are being threatened, are being kept at the camp’s hospital and fed through nasal tubes and sometimes given fluids intravenously, the report said.
The military authorities were so concerned about ending a previous strike this summer that they allowed the establishment of a six-member prisoners’ grievance committee, said the Times. But the committee was quickly disbanded. The reports quotes Major Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman at the base in Cuba, as saying the prisoners who are being fed at the hospital are generally not strapped to their beds or gurneys but are in handcuffs and leg restraints.
A 21st prisoner at the hospital is voluntarily accepting liquid food, the report said. Major Weir said the prisoners usually accept the nasal tubes passively because they know they will be restrained and fed forcibly if necessary, the paper reported. “We will not let them starve themselves to the point of causing harm to themselves,” The Times quotes the major as saying. On at least one occasion, he said, a prisoner was restrained and forcibly fed. The paper said one law enforcement official who has been fully briefed on the events said senior military officials had grown increasingly worried about their ability to control the situation.
A senior military official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the situation as greatly troublesome for the camp’s authorities and said they had tried several ways to end the hunger strike, without success, The Times.
Guantánamo Strike Has Directors Worried
Neil A. Lewis / The New York Times
WASHINGTON (September 18, 2005) — A hunger strike at the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has unsettled senior commanders there and produced the most serious challenge yet to the military’s effort to manage the detention of hundreds of terrorism suspects, lawyers and officials say.
As many as 200 prisoners — more than a third of the camp – have refused food in recent weeks to protest conditions and prolonged confinement without trial, according to the accounts of lawyers who represent them. While military officials put the number of those participating at 105, they acknowledge that 20 of them, whose health and survival are being threatened, are being kept at the camp’s hospital and fed through nasal tubes and sometimes given fluids intravenously.
The military authorities were so concerned about ending a previous strike this summer that they allowed the establishment of a six-member prisoners’ grievance committee, lawyers said. The committee, a sharp departure from past practice in which the camp authorities refused to cede any control or role to the detainees, was quickly dissolved, the lawyers say.
Major Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman at the base, said that the prisoners who were being fed at the hospital were generally not strapped to their beds and gurneys but were in handcuffs and leg restraints. A 21st prisoner at the hospital is voluntarily accepting liquid food.
Weir said the prisoners usually accept the nasal tubes passively because they know they will be restrained and fed forcibly if necessary. “We will not let them starve themselves to the point of causing harm to themselves,” he said, describing the process as “assisted feeding” rather than force-feeding. On at least one occasion, he said, a prisoner was restrained and forcibly fed.
One law enforcement official who has been fully briefed on the events at Guantánamo said senior military officials had grown increasingly worried about their capability to control the situation.
A senior military official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the situation as greatly troublesome for the camp’s authorities and said they had tried several ways to end the hunger strike, without success.
The comments of the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, probably because their accounts conflict with the more positive descriptions in official military accounts, generally mirrored the statements of lawyers for the detainees, who have received their information from face-to-face interviews with their clients.
Clive Stafford Smith, a British lawyer for several of the detainees, said he had been visiting some of his clients in August when the most recent strike began. He said that a detainee, Omar Deghayes, told him that the strike was largely to protest their long imprisonment without being charged with any crime as well as the conditions of their confinement.
He said that Deghayes, a Libyan who has lived in London, told him: “Look, I’m dying a slow death in this place as it is. I don’t have any hope of fair treatment, so what have I got to lose?”
Stafford Smith said an earlier hunger strike ended on July 28 after the authorities agreed to improve conditions.
He said that one inmate, Shaker Aamer, negotiated the end to that hunger strike with a camp official he identified as Colonel Michael Bumgarner, who said he had been authorized to address some of the prisoners’ grievances. Stafford Smith, who represents Aamer, said his client told him that Bumgarner said he would ensure that the detainees would thereafter be treated “in accordance with the Geneva accords.”
That included, Stafford Smith said, the establishment of the six-member committee to represent the prisoners in talks with the authorities. Such representative committees are called for in the Geneva conventions, although they had not been formed at Guantánamo.
The Bush administration has said that while the Guantánamo detainees are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva conventions, they are generally treated by its standards.
Stafford Smith said the committee functioned for only a few days before the authorities disbanded it.
Weir disputed Stafford Smith’s description of a prisoners’ grievance committee. “There have been no meetings with detainees refusing to eat,” he said in a written statement in response to a question about the existence of such a committee. He said that commanders and soldiers interact with the prisoners daily and that they are also made aware of prisoners’ needs and complaints from representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. He declined to elaborate further.
Stafford Smith said the current strike began after some detainees reported witnessing the abuse of a prisoner, Hisham Sliti, when he returned to his cell after an interrogation session.
Let them Die or Let Them Go
Commentary by Mike Whitney / ICH
(September 19, 2005) — I have a word of advice I would like to offer Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon chieftains who currently preside over the 200 or more hunger-strikers at Guantanamo Bay, 20 of whom are near death. For God’s sake, let them die.
What more could you possibly want from them?
They’ve already provided you with the subjects you needed for your newly-perfected sense-deprivation techniques and your sadistic methods of torture. They supplied you with the lab-rats for your new drugs, your improved methods of psychological torment, and your sexually-deviant abuses. Now, let them die.
The experiment is over. Show that there is some speck of humanity left in your withered heart by allowing these men to pass away with dignity; the dignity you deprived them of in life.
The hunger-strike has been going on for 6 weeks. That means that a considerable number of the prisoners are undergoing the latter phases of physical deterioration. Many are probably vomiting blood by now and too weak to either walk or stand on their own.
Their liver and kidney-functions have begun to fail and their vision has begun to weaken; putting additional pressure on the heart to continue working while the body is slowly devouring itself.
Let them die.
If the Pentagon allowed the media to visit Guantanamo, they would see the emaciated, skeletal victims of Bush’s war on terror, the proof that America now oversees Nazi-like death camps. But, the media has shown little interest in the suffering of the prisoners even though it is widely acknowledged that many were randomly rounded up by warlords in Afghanistan and ransomed to the Americans.
So far, only one newspaper in the country, The Minnesota Daily, has spoken out on behalf of the prisoners on their editorial page. The newspaper stated:
While morality and ethics are abstract ideas, justice is more concrete, hence why there are laws. Guantanamo and the actions that have been taken by our government against the detainees violate the Geneva Convention, the Bill of Rights, and our Constitution. Justice is not merely a conditional idea.
The Minnesota Daily is the solitary voice in the media-wilderness to defend the essential rights of these casualties in Bush’s war, but with little effect. Washington’s justice has nothing to do with mercy or rehabilitation, but with punishment alone.
There won’t be any cameras or journalists at Guantanamo. The face that America sees is the tan-and-rested visage of President Fraudster offering his soothing commentary on another part of the globe destroyed by his recklessness. The pictures of Bush’s dungeons are left on the cutting-room floor with the other unflattering footage of American brutality. That certainly won’t change now.
The prisoners follow in the long tradition of hunger-strikers from Gandhi to Bobby Sands. Their demands are simple. They want the ability to challenge the terms of their imprisonment in court.
That’s it; the most basic of all human rights, to be informed of the crime for which they are being held and the opportunity to defend themselves against those charges. It’s a right that they are entitled to under international law, but have been denied by Washington.
The Pentagon has done nothing to address the inmates’ demands and steadfastly refuses to meet with their leaders. Instead, they have taken the low-road by hand-cuffing and putting leg-irons on the sickliest and force-feeding them intravenously or through nose-drips.
Let them die.
The United States has established itself well-beyond the rule of law; a rogue state that refuses to comply with even the minimal standards of decency required under the Geneva Conventions. Guantanamo Bay is the administration’s ultimate achievement; a torture-gulag devoted to the cruel and inhuman treatment of its enemies; an icon to lawlessness and savagery.
The administration now asserts its power over death-itself; a final means of humiliating its victims and perpetuating their suffering. Rumsfeld’s feeding-tubes are the last slim thread that tethers these men to a lifetime of detention, abuse, and hopelessness.
Let them die or let them go
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