According to a spokesperson at the Guantanamo Bay prison, there are at least 21 men who are on a hunger strike in a growing protest against their indefinite confinement and alleged invasive searches of their Qurans. The protest is in its 42nd consecutive day.
The Associated Press reports that attorneys representing the inmates say the number of participants in the widening hunger strike is actually larger then what has been officially announced by the United States military.
Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, has gone on record as saying that none of the prison guards ever touch their Qurans. He did say, however, that inmates have used their Qurans in the past to hide contraband.
U.S. Navy Captain Robert Durand confirmed that eight men are being fed with a liquid nutrient to avoid a dangerous level of weight loss. Two other men are being treated for dehydration at a military hospital. The military has stated that none of the protesters are in immediate danger and do not face anything critical.
Durand explained that only a small number of detainees fall under the definition of a hunger strike: missing nine consecutive meals. As of Monday, that number stands at 21, but sources close to the situation say the military is suppressing the real numbers. It is estimated that approximately 130 people located in Camp 6 of the U.S. base are taking part in the hunger demonstration.
Earlier this month, the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) had rejected that a hunger strike was indeed transpiring, reports Russia Today. According to accounts from the military personnel, the allegations of mistreatment were false and some of the inmates had actually falsified information and fabricated incidents of misconduct.
“If the definition of a hunger striker is entirely in their control and is a matter of their discretion, then I think that explains how they are able to say that there are no more than a handful of men on hunger strike,” Pardiss Kebriaei of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) said in a statement released Thursday. “While JTF-GTMO continues to deny the existence of a mass hunger strike at Guantánamo, attorneys report that the prisoners’ health is declining rapidly as the hunger strike enters its second month.”
The Voice of Russia reported Monday that Human rights advocates and lawyers have written letters to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The letters contained information that noted they have received reports that some of the prisoners have lost as much as 30 pounds and about 24 men have “lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross, the one organization that is permitted unrestricted access to GITMO, said that during its visit late last month that it acknowledged the “tensions at the detention facility.”
During the 2008 presidential campaign, then Senator Barack Obama pledged to shut down Guantanamo Bay, but it remains open and military trials of terror suspects persist.