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More Guantánamo Bay detainees join hunger strike

31st Mar 2013

Elham Asaad Buaras

The number of Guantánamo Bay detainees on hunger strike has grown from 14 on March 15 to 24 as of March 19, said a spokesman for the detention operation

Navy Capt Robert Durand also confirmed that eight of those on hunger strikes were force-fed through tubes inserted into their noses and two were hospitalised with dehydration, he said.

Lawyers for the men say more than 100 detainees began a wide scale hunger strike on February 6 to protest against the confiscation of letters, photographs and legal mail, and the rough handling of Qur’ans during searches of their cells.

Durand called the allegations “outright falsehoods and gross exaggerations.”

The detention camp at the Guantánamo Bay US Naval Base in eastern Cuba holds 166 men captured in counter-terrorism operations with nearly all have been held for over a decade without charge.

The military counts prisoners as hunger strikers if they have skipped at least nine consecutive meals.

The Obama Administration has cleared more than half the Guantánamo prisoners for release or transfer, but Congress has blocked efforts to close the detention camp and made it increasingly difficult to resettle Guantánamo prisoners.

More than 50 lawyers representing the detained sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel earlier this month urging him to help end the current hunger strike.

They said the participants’ health had deteriorated alarmingly, and that some had lost between 9 and 14 kilograms.

The lawyers said hopes were dwindling that the Obama Administration would keep its promise to close the camp.

The detention facility at Guantánamo was opened in 2002 to house prisoners rounded up in “War on Terror” waged by President George W Bush’s Administration following the 9/11 attacks.

They were held there without charge or trial or any due process of law. Periodic hunger strikes have occurred since shortly after the prison opened.

In January 2009, Obama signed an executive order to close down the facility, but has failed to follow through with a promise he made during his first electoral campaign.

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