A massive hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba is intensifying. Lawyers say that more than a hundred detainees began the strike in early February to protest against the improper treatment of prisoners’ Qu’rans-- And the confiscation of letters, photographs and legal mail.
US officials set up the Guantanamo detention camp after the 9-11 attacks to lock up non-American suspects affiliated with anti-American militant groups. President Obama pledged to close the prison but has so far failed to do so. Richard Wilson is a law professor who has worked with detainees at Guantanamo.
Dozens of lawyers petitioned US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last month for help in ending the hunger strike that could now include up to one hundred men. Reports indicate that the health of striking detainees’ has deteriorated. Some prisoners have lost more than 20 or 30 pounds in bodyweight.
Guantanamo Bay Prison has 166 detainees. Almost all have been held there for more than a decade without being charged. Back in 2010, President Obama said he’d shut down that prison, but since his re-election his pledge has barely been mentioned.
Many of those held captive are Yemenis who the U-S is refusing to repatriate because of what officials say is instability in the country.
This week, relatives and friends of Guantanamo detainees demanded the release of their loved ones. Yemenis’ frustration is directed at the Obama administration but also at Yemen’s government, which stands accused of not doing enough to put pressure on the United States to close the prison and bring the detainees home.
Attorneys representing Guantanamo Bay detainees say that the hunger strike there has increased in scope among the imprisoned, out of frustration and despair. Many there are losing hope that they’ll ever be released. Acting on a phrase that is ironically tied into US history: “Live free or die.” .