At Guantanamo, 20% (or more) of Detainees are on Hunger Strike, Being Force-Fed

About one-fifth of the people being held at Guantánamo Bay are on hunger strike. According to a report in the UK Times newspaper, they are starving themselves as a form of protest to attract the attention of Barack Obama, who has said he plans to close the facility -- but has not said when or how. Most of the hunger-strikers are being force-fed through tubes.
Of the 248 inmates inside the detention facility, 44 are refusing food – but 33 of those are receiving nutrition with tubes that are forced up their noses and into their stomachs. On election night, according to one official, news of Mr Obama’s win spread across the prison facility even though no inmates had access to television that evening, and chants of “Obama! Obama! Obama!” erupted throughout the complex.

Human rights groups claim the total number of hunger strikers is higher than officials say. Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer for the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, says that more than 70 men held at the US base in Cuba are refusing to eat. She cited reports from visiting lawyers.

According to one official, most inmates are now well informed about what is happening in the outside world through a combination of watching Arabic news programmes and meetings with civilian lawyers and the International Red Cross, who are allowed to visit the facility. Most are aware of Mr Obama’s pledge to close the prison, which received its first inmates seven years ago this week. Asked why so many were on hunger strike and why the number was increasing, an official said: “This is the seventh anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees, and a week today is the inauguration of a new president. Hunger striking is an acknowledged form of protest.”

One in five Guantanamo Bay detainees is on hunger strike (Times Online UK, via @mkapor)


  1. It will be a difficult battle, mostly in courts, to close it down; but there’s hope that the process won’t get hijacked politically when officials like Susan Crawford are willing to go on the record with the facts, rather than apply another coat of Administration gloss.

  2. Do you give a damn about the Constitution, perhaps? Give any damn at all about keeping promises (i.e. treaties)? Any damn at all? No? STFU, my damnless friend.

  3. Brainspore, for a president who believes in obeying laws, shutting down Gitmo will require courts. I think that’s what he means when he says it will take a while. Doing it legally takes a while. Doing it transparently adds even more time. All worth it, though, if words like constitutionality mean more to you than barrier to imperial whim.

  4. I can’t imagine who would fight to keep it open Eustace. The GOP would like it to go away because they’re afraid of ending up in the Hague. Rightly so. The rest of humanity wants to end the nightmare.

  5. #9 posted by eustace , January 14, 2009 9:26 PM

    Brainspore, for a president who believes in obeying laws, shutting down Gitmo will require courts. I think that’s what he means when he says it will take a while. Doing it legally takes a while. Doing it transparently adds even more time. All worth it, though, if words like constitutionality mean more to you than barrier to imperial whim.

    The whole point of Gitmo was to create a detention center outside of U.S. legal jurisdiction. Every time the Supreme court has weighed in on the issue it has been to place limits on these detentions, not to sanction them.

    These prisoners are held by executive order of the President, not by U.S. law. They can be released or relocated with a similar order.

  6. But of course the new mantra is “looking forward”, a nice little euphemism for not prosecuting anyone for the crimes committed by the U.S. at Guantanamo or anywhere else.

  7. If the U.S. would like to fast track the recovery of it’s moral authority then they should be sending anyone responsible for Gitmo to the Hauge.

    Unlikely, but the operation and intent of the place has becomne so blatantly criminal. It’s a slap in the face to any country the US has tried to sanction for human rights issues.

  8. I didn’t mean that the President would have to fight the court system to close Gitmo. I meant that dealing with the mess, closing it up responsibly (and preserving documentation) and either prosecuting or releasing the prisoners, all of that would take time.

  9. Great to see this issue popping up on BoingBoing.

    I’m one of over 100 Americans on day 5 of a fast in solidarity with the current hunger strike–we began Jan 11 and will end on Inauguration Day, in hopes it will be a “new era” as they say. We have lots of follow-up work planned for the “first 100 days” to encourage the US to close Guantanamo, to do it soon and do it right.

  10. One reason for Obama to seek to close Gitmo as legally and tidily as possible is that the prisoners held there represent only the tip of the iceberg. Remember all those “special rendition” flights? There are an estimated 27,000 other illegal combatants being held in secret prisons around the world. Closing Gitmo by Presidential fiat would be a showy publicity stunt; closing all the secret prisons would require more political capital.

  11. Obama’s website is asking folks to post what they think is most important for Obama to work on and then people rank the posts. There’s a post here that demands Obama’s administration investigate the war crimes of the Bush administration, rather than buy into the bullshit that we should “focus on the future”, when the people saying “focus on teh future” are the very assholes who committed war crimes in the past.

    You can vote for this post here:

    The more votes, the more it moves up on the website. Even if Obama caves and doesn’t demand an investigation, I think its important enough that we at least have to let it be known that we don’t support these illegal actiosn of the bush administration.

  12. thnk sndng th prsnrs t Sd rb wld b prfctly ccptbl sltn. Sd rb lrdy vlts s mny hmn rghts, tht ths wn’t mk ny dffrnc. f y wnt t snd smn t n ntrntnl wr crms trl, mst f th rb wrld wld hv t g frst bcs thy rtnly trtr nd kll mr ppl n prsn n mnth thn th S hs n dcd.

  13. @19: The bad behavior of other governments does nothing to excuse OUR behavior.

    I love my country and things like Gitmo break my heart. The United States is a great nation, perhaps the greatest nation, and things like torture and denying habeas corpus are BENEATH us.

    The fact that the United States government is involved in such spits in the face of everything our founding fathers stood for. We are better than this and we should conduct ourselves accordingly.

  14. @ #14:
    Ah, I think I take your meaning. Closing down Gitmo won’t be a difficult battle, just figuring out what to do with the inmates.

    I say just do what we should have done to begin with, either charge them with something or send them back where we found them. The legal procedures to do this are already in place, we’ve simply chosen to ignore them until now.

  15. If we install a Golf Course we could call it the George W. Bush Administration retirement communtity.

    There’s plenty of brush there for W to clear, there are guns for Cheney (though there IS a distinct shortage of lawyers), and for Rumsfeld – the enemies at the gate he’s always wanted for.

  16. I honestly think this will be considered one of the most shameful chapters of american history. It is amazing the damage Bush has done, and I fear it will be many years before the US recovers from his crimes.

  17. “You dsay you don’t want to eat because you think you’re being treated unfairly… How about we put this Big Mac in a blender set to puree and shove the resulting vile mixture up your nose through a tube?”

    Way to shine that beacon of freedom, USA!

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