Red Cross Workers Rush to Gitmo as Hunger Strike Crisis Grows
March 27, 2013
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Carol Rosenberg / The Miami Herald
Red Cross officials have scrapped a planned visit to Guantanamo Bay in early April and instead came today, citing growing concerns with the state of hunger striking detainees, including at least three that were reportedly hospitalized because of failing health. The Pentagon is admitting only 28 hunger strikers, but defense lawyers say the number is in excess of 100.
Red Cross Workers Arrive at Gitmo to Check Out Hunger Strikers
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 26, 2013) -- Red Cross officials have scrapped a planned visit to Guantanamo Bay in early April and instead came today, citing growing concerns with the state of hunger striking detainees, including at least three that were reportedly hospitalized because of failing health.
The Pentagon is admitting only 28 hunger strikers, but defense lawyers say the number is in excess of 100. The military maintains that many of the strikers are "cheating." The strike began in February with the confiscation of detainees' Qu'rans, and has continued in the face of anger over open-ended detentions without charges.
Red Cross spokesmen have urged the US to improve oversight at the prison and stop being so secretive about the status of so many held at the prison, particularly those who have already been cleared for release but who remain, seemingly forever.
The decision to arrive early might also have been a practical one, as defense lawyers say that the military has been restricting flights to the detention center recently, allowing only a single military flight to the base and only those approved by the Pentagon to come along. With such restrictions on the rise as the hunger strike worsens, the Red Cross workers may have needed to get in while the getting was good.
Red Cross Workers Arrive at Guantanamo
Carol Rosenberg / The Miami Herald
MIAMI (March 26, 2013) -- Two delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of them a physician, are at Guantanamo this week in an accelerated trip moved up from next month to check out the ongoing hunger strike at the war on terror prison.
Red Cross spokesman Simon Schorno said Tuesday morning that the regularly schedule two-week mission was meant to start April 1.
"However, in an an effort to better understand current tensions and the ongoing hunger strike, we have decided to start this visit one week earlier," said Schorno.
As of Monday, the Pentagon considered 28 out of 166 captives to meet the minimum criteria to be considered hunger strikers. Ten of them were being fed nutritional supplements mostly fed through tubes snaked up a captive's nose and into his stomach.
Of the 10, three were hospitalized, receiving both intravenous drips for rehydration as well as the tube feedings, Navy Capt. Robert Durand said Monday from Guantanamo. No new figures were immediately available on Tuesday.
The Red Cross spokesman attributed tensions in the camp to ongoing uncertainty about the status of the vast majority of detainees.
Only six are facing trials by military commission. About 90 of the captives have been cleared for release by an Obama-era task force but remain at the detention center due to a combination of congressional restrictions and political instability in their own countries that has stalled repatriations.
In addition, different agencies of the federal government are still working on setting up parole-style hearings for the captives, called periodic review boards.
The Pentagon and lawyers for the prisoners to dispute how widespread is the hunger strike, and when it started.
The Red Cross is unlikely to help resolve the disagreement because of a policy that keeps confidential conversations with the host country it visits, in this case the United States, which controls the corner of southeast Cuba where the prison is located.
"The ICRC believes past and current tensions at Guantanamo to be the direct result of the uncertainty faced by detainees," Schorno said in a statement.
"It is the longstanding position of the ICRC that persons detained for imperative reasons of security must be held within a valid legal framework. It remains the opinion of the ICRC that appropriate, fair and transparent procedural safeguards will help alleviate the mental and emotional strain the detainees experience given the prevailing uncertainty about their fate."
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