A hunger strike by prisoners at the US’s notorious Guantanamo Bay detention facility enters its 41st consecutive day, as medical experts and lawyers warn of the deteriorating health of more than 100 hunger strikers.
Lawyers and medical officials are concerned about the critical health condition of the prisoners, who began the hunger strike on February 6, after the Gitmo staff reportedly seized the personal belongings of the inmates, including letters, photographs and copies of the Holy Qur’an in a sacrilegious manner during searches of their cells.
Dr. Mark Mason, an anthropologist, said, “They are indeed threatening their own lives, putting their lives on the line in this heroic effort to express a sense of autonomy, outrage at being imprisoned in what can be characterized as nothing less than the American sort of medieval torture chamber. ”
“That context where we have individuals incarcerated, isolated from each other, and they don’t know if they are going to get out tomorrow or never. That sets off a circumstance for extreme psychological stress,” Mason stated. Meanwhile, Guantanamo spokesperson Navy Captain Robert Durand has said the hunger strike is a “widespread phenomenon.” He admitted on March 15 that the number of inmates on hunger strike was increasing and claimed that only 14 inmates were participating in the protest move. Pardiss Kebriaei, a lawyer for one of the detainees, said, “If the definition of a hunger striker is entirely in their (authorities) 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.” On March 14, forty five lawyers of the detainees sent an open letter to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to highlight the mass hunger strike and called on Hagel to take actions to end the strike. The United Nation recently issued a statement saying that Washington was violating international human rights law by holding detainees indefinitely and without charge. US President Barack Obama had vowed to close the Guantanamo Bay facility before the end of his first term in office. He has failed to fulfill the promise, however.