Government notifies lawyers of force-fed Gitmo hunger strikers

Detainees' lawyers put hunger strike numbers at 166, officials say 11 are being force-fed to keep them alive

By Natasha Lennard

Published April 9, 2013 1:41PM (EDT)

While U.S. military officials continue to downplay the extent of the Guantánamo Bay hunger strike -- claimed by attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights to now involve over 100 inmates -- the government has started notifying lawyers about which detainees are being force-fed in order to keep them alive. The current hunger strike, which began in early February, was reportedly orchestrated in response to what detainees call undue intrusions and handling by guards of personal affects, including Qurans. The hunger strikers are also protesting "the virtual halt in releases under President Barack Obama," the AP reported. Detainees' lawyers have put the strike numbers at 166, while military officials have listed 42 detainees with 11 being force-fed. The AP reported Tuesday that while it is military protocol not to discuss specific prisoners, lawyers of those being force-fed have been notified. Yemeni prisoner Samir Mukbel, one of the hunger strikers being force-fed, currently faces no charges and, although cleared for transfer, remains at the prison camp with no known scheduled release date. Via the AP:

The U.S. military generally does not discuss specific prisoners in part because doing so might violate provisions of the Geneva Conventions that prohibit making a public spectacle of prisoners, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for the detention center. As part of that policy, officials have not confirmed the identities of individual hunger strikers, though there has at times been indirect confirmation in court papers as part of the process through which the men challenge their confinement in federal court.

Durand said he was aware the government was notifying lawyers whose clients were being force fed, though he did not know the reason for the change.

... The feeding procedure used at Guantanamo Bay is similar to one used in civilian federal prisons and involves giving them a liquid nutrient mix through a flexible rubber tube inserted into the prisoner's nostril. Base officials have said it is not painful, though they have also offered the men a topical anesthetic.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Center For Constitutional Rights Detainees Guantanamo Bay Hunger Strike Terrorism