Apr 29, 2013
For the past few weeks, half the 166 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. base in Cuba, have been on a hunger strike to protest their disgusting conditions of detention. Some of these prisoners have been imprisoned – without charges – for more than 11 years.
U.S. soldiers moved to violently suppress the hunger strike on April 13. The participants in this struggle resisted with what little means they had: broomsticks and water bottles. The soldiers fired rubber bullets, wounding one of the prisoners. But this attempt to regain control failed. U.S. authorities admitted the hunger strike was continuing on April 21.
The U.S. military took these Muslim men and boys to prison during its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guantanamo prison, first opened in 2002, has housed 779 detainees from 48 different countries, accused in the media of being radical jihadists. The Bush administration invented a category for these prisoners – “unlawful enemy combatants.” They were deprived of their liberty, but with no charges and no legal recourse for an indefinite – and seemingly endless – amount of time. Even lawyer visits are restricted. In eleven years, only nine inmates have been put on trial.
Six hundred of these prisoners have been sent back to their country of origin, without convictions. Of the remaining 166, only a handful is considered to be of “important value” to U.S. authorities, and they are held in a high security area. The majority of those remaining, the other 130 prisoners, are not considered a threat to the security of the United States. And the majority – 89 of them – would have been immediately released if Congress had not decided to mix into the Guantanamo affair by refusing to authorize the funds needed to send these prisoners to their home country, or to U.S. territory for trial. No wonder some despairing prisoners began this hunger strike.
The hunger strike started in an area where prisoners are allowed to live in open cells and to mingle together. These inmates feel abandoned by the world, and decided to go on hunger strike in response to continual harassment by the guards, especially incessant searches.
U.S. authorities will not resolve the impasse they have created by repression, nor by force-feeding 16 of the 84 hunger strikers – a form of torture.
In fact, it was possible to put an end to this arbitrary situation four years ago if President Barack Obama had kept his campaign promise to close this vile prison. But he went back on his promise – shamelessly continuing indefinite detention without trial. And the United States pretends to give lessons in democracy to the entire world, by using bombs and drone attacks.
It is the U.S., first and foremost, that violates all historic legal agreements, thereby resurrecting an ignominious past in which the ruler’s opponents, real or imaginary, are left in dungeons to rot forever.