Hunger Strikers, New Prison for ‘Special’ Detainees & No More Commercial Flights to Guantanamo

by Kevin Gosztola | March 22, 2013

Guantanamo prisoners engaged in a hunger strike that has been ongoing for over a month are losing considerable weight, according to attorneys for the prisoners. The Pentagon also continues to report a number of hunger strikers that does not match reports from attorneys, who have said there are many more prisoners on strike.

The Associated Press reports:

Attorney Carlos Warner met with a prisoner from Kuwait this week and says the man appears to have lost 25 pounds. He said 35-year-old Faez al-Kandari was pale and could barely stand. Several other attorneys have reported similar accounts after meeting or speaking with prisoners in recent days.

A prison spokesman says military doctors are closely monitoring the men’s weight and health. Navy Capt. Robert Durand also says the strike has grown to 26 prisoners, up by five since Monday.

There are around 130 men housed in Camp Six where the hunger strike is taking place. Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on March 14, “We understand that most of the men in Camp 6, which holds the largest number of detainees at Guantánamo, have been on hunger strike since February 6.” By treating the term “hunger strike” as a term of art, the Pentagon is deliberately misrepresenting the number of prisoners on strike.

Marine General John Kelly, who heads US Southern Command, told the House Armed Services Committee  prisoners on strike “had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated when the president backed off.” They apparently learned ”President Obama did not restate the goal of closing Guantanamo in his second inaugural address or in this year’s State of the Union speech.” CBS News also suggests the prisoners have been aware the State Department closed an office that was in charge of resettling prisoners. This has “caused them to become frustrated, and they want to turn the heat up.”

These statement completely omit the fact that lawyers for the prisoners have been reporting their clients have been abused by the new guard force.

From the CCR:

We understand that the hunger strike was precipitated by widespread searches of detainees Qurans—perceived as religious desecration—as well as  searches and confiscation of other personal items, including family letters and photographs, and legal mail, seemingly without provocation or cause. We also understand that these searches occurred against a background of increasingly regressive practices at the prison taking place in recent months, which our clients have described as a return to an older regime at Guantánamo that was widely identified with the mistreatment of detainees. Indeed, the conditions being reported by the men appear to be a significant departure from the way in which the prison has operated over the past several years.

This article originally appeared on the blog The Dissenter.