A number of Guantanamo Bay detainees and their lawyers are pushing back on the prevailing narrative about the prisoner hunger strike, which, according to authorities, ended last month.
Sixteen detainees continue to be force-fed (a practice decried as brutal by the international medical community) and reports have emerged that many hunger strikers were coerced to end their political action.
“The U.S. authorities have, with some glee, announced the hunger strike to be over. What they fail to tell you is the horrific things they did to crush the hunger strikers’ spirits, as my clients have described. And yet still there are at least 16 men striking and being brutally force-fed twice a day,” lawyer with human rights group Reprieve, Cori Crider — who represents a number of Gitmo detainees — told the Guardian.
Three prisoners, all of whom have been cleared for transfer from the prison but remain detained there, testified in letters that hunger strikers, including British resident Shaker Aamer, were humiliated, held in isolation and denied their belongings in attempts by prison authorities to break their resolve.
Via the Guardian:
In letters recounting Aamer’s treatment, which have only just been declassified, [detainee Abu Wa'el Dhiab] said: “They have deprived him of food, water and medicine. Then the riot squad uses the excuse of giving him water and food and medicine to storm his cell again.”
Wa’el, who like Aamer has spent 11 years inside the camp, added: “They took him to the clinic, tore his clothes off and left him with only his underwear for long hours, taunting him.”
Another inmate, Samir Mukbel, from Yemen, who has also been cleared for release, alleged that throwing the prisoners into isolation helped break the protest, which lasted more than 200 days and drew such international attention that President Barack Obama reiterated his intention to close the camp.
Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian detainee who has been cleared for release, corroborated the claim that solitary confinement was used as a punishment for prisoners making political statements. Belbacha, 43, described how the authorities were punishing hunger strikers by confiscating their belongings. “My glasses, legal papers, toothbrush, toothpaste and all my other necessities have been taken.”