Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hunger Stike at Guantánamo Grows

WASHINGTON — A hunger strike by detainees who have been held for years without trial at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has grown to involve at least 25 prisoners, the Defense Department disclosed Wednesday.

That number includes eight who are being force-fed a nutritional supplement through a hose snaked into their nose while they are restrained in a chair.

There have long been about half a dozen prisoners at Guantánamo who refuse to eat and have been kept alive by force-feeding. But the number refusing meals among the population of 166 inmates has recently surged.

According to the military’s count, as of March 15 there were 14 officially recognized hunger strikers. That number swelled to 21 by Monday and 24 by Tuesday, and is now 25, said Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for the prison. Two have been hospitalized for dehydration, he added.

The hunger strike appears to be concentrated in Camp 6, where long-term detainees who comply with prison rules and who are not facing any charges before a military commission live in communal housing. Several detainees who were deemed by the medical staff to require nutritional supplements and balked at the procedure have now been moved to Camp 5, where noncompliant prisoners are housed in individual cells, Captain Durand said.

In 2009, President Obama ordered that the prison be closed by the end of his first year in office. But the effort to wind it down collapsed as Congress, concerned about some former detainees who were linked to terrorist activities, has imposed an increasingly steep set of obstacles to any additional transfers.

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