The official number of detainees on a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay reached 100 on Saturday, with twenty of them receiving enteral feeds and five others being observed in a detainee hospital. What is most striking, however, is that of the hunger strikers who are being force-fed, at least four of them were cleared for release years ago, the Miami Herald reports.
While prison officials have refused to name any of the hunger strikers or reveal the status of their health, the Justice Department has notified the attorneys of the prisoners who currently require tube-feedings due to severe malnourishment. Many of the attorneys, in turn, have revealed their clients' identities and their stories.
Mohammed al-Hamiri, a Yemeni man, is one of the captives who is on a hunger strike. His lawyer, Omar Farah, was notified earlier of Hamiri's health, and was told that they were now feeding him through a tube. Hamiri is just one of the 55 men who, in federal court filings, has been cleared by the Justice Department for release.
Another is Shaker Aamer, a 46-year-old Saudi national and permanent resident of the U.K. He has been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for over 11 years without being charged. He has also been cleared on two separate occasions — once in 2007, when the Bush administration had declared that they had no evidence against him, and once again in 2009 when the same declaration was asserted. However, for years later now, he is still being denied his freedom.
Describing the treatment he has been subjected to since beginning the strike, Aamer told his lawyer, "They are killing us, so it is hard to keep calm...in reality I am dying inside."
Before the hunger strike gained momentum, 43 of the 166 captives were already refusing food. But, on April 13, when soldiers stormed Guantanamo's showcase communal prison and put almost every captive at the detention center under lock-down, the number of hunger strikers significantly increased.
Prior to this, 43 of the 166 captives were on a hunger-strike, but the number has significantly increased
Moreover, as the number of detainees being fed via tubes continues to increase, the practice of force-feeding has also seen much criticism. Most U.S. judges who have examined the method of force feeding have concluded that the practice may be violating the inmates' right to control their own bodies and privacy. Some also argue that it is illegal to force feed, and consequently go against the will of a mentally competent adult.
Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo since 2002 also sparked debate over the force feeding measures when he penned an op-ed for the New York Times, saying, "I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can't describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way."
The U.S.' use of the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been critiqued for long by many, but as matters go from bad to worse, something has to change. Many of these men, who are desperate enough at this point to prefer taking their own lives over rotting away in a jail cell for an indeterminate amount of time, have been cleared but have been denied release. These men are no longer hungry for food, but are starving for freedom. It is the U.S.' job to deliver to these innocent men what is a staple of America's own foundation.