By Jacob Misener

100 detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison now taking part in hunger strike

American Medical Association says force-feeding measures breach “core ethical values” of doctors


Amnesty International

The U.S. Naval Base located in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has become a contentious issue amongst human rights groups over the past decade, due to the reports of torture and mistreatment that have come out of the facility in recent years.

At least 100 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are now participating in a three-month old hunger strike, and President Obama has recently reiterated his disapproval of the facility while blaming Congress for the lack of action by his administration.

“I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” said Obama at a White House press conference last week. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”

Almost two-dozen of the strikers are reportedly being force-fed through a gruesome process that includes a greased tube being inserted through the detainees’ noses, down their throats and down into their stomachs. The president of the American Medical Association, who says it breaches the “core ethical values of the medical profession”, has publicly condemned this practice.

However, President Obama has shown support for these measures, saying, “I don’t want these individuals to die.”

Although he laid blame for the inaction of his administration at the feet of Congress, human rights organizations across the globe have pointed out steps that could have been taken by the President himself, without the consent of the U.S. Congress.

“Congress is certainly responsible for imposing unprecedented restrictions on detainee transfers, but President Obama still has the power to transfer men right now,” according to an Al-Jazeera report that quotes the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which has played an integral role in the ongoing Guantanamo debate since 2002. “He should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees, starting with the 86 men who have been cleared for release.”

Some of the 166 detainees at the prison have been there as long as 11 years, according to a report by The Economist, without ever having been charged. Countless prisoners have either been denied a fair trial or even the potential for release. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as a violation of human rights law has denounced this process, known as indefinite detention.

“The notion that we’re going to continue to keep over a hundred individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating Al-Qaeda core… the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop,” said Obama.

The Obama administration has all but stopped working to close the prison, after he signed an executive order during his first term that met a dismal defeat in the Senate, by a 90-6 vote. Since that vote, Congress has made it even more difficult to send detainees anywhere outside the country, according to The Economist.

Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) sat down with one of the detainees who have been released in recent years, and who has participated in the hunger strikes. His account of the atmosphere and environment at the prison was harrowing.

“Thinking about why we’ve been there for many, many years inside those prisons without any chance to look at the evidence [against us.] There is no hope. All that comes together. And then it’s a cry of help to the outside world [as] as last resort,” said Omar Deghayes of the hunger strikes.

Deghayes spent five years in the prison, after being arrested in Pakistan in 2002 as an enemy combatant. He personally believes that he was released because he was arrested on a case of mistaken identity.

“There are some people who have been released and they’ve admitted that they have committed wrong things,” the Libyan citizen told NPR. “Then at the same time, you have people that are completely innocent and been cleared for release and they aren’t released.”


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