WASHINGTON: A hunger strike at the US military’s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has unsettled senior commanders and produced the most serious challenge yet to the military’s effort to manage hundreds of terrorism suspects, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
Quoting unnamed lawyers and officials, the newspaper said as many as 200 prisoners – more than a third of the camp’s population – had refused food in recent weeks to protest conditions and prolonged confinement without trial.
While military officials put the number of those participating at 105, they acknowledged that 20 of them, whose health and survival were being threatened, were being kept at the camp’s hospital and fed through nasal tubes and sometimes given fluids intravenously, the report said.
Military authorities had been so concerned about ending a previous strike this summer that they had allowed the establishment of a six-member prisoners’ grievance committee, said the Times. But the committee was quickly disbanded.
The reports quote Major Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman at the base, as saying the prisoners who were being fed at the hospital were generally not strapped to their beds or gurneys but were in handcuffs and leg restraints. Weir said the prisoners usually accepted nasal tubes passively because they knew they would be restrained and fed forcibly if necessary, the paper reported.
“We will not let them starve themselves to the point of causing harm to themselves,” The Times quotes the major as saying. On at least one occasion, he said, a prisoner was restrained and forcibly fed. The paper said senior military officials had grown increasingly worried about their ability to control the situation. A senior military official described the situation as greatly troublesome for the camp’s authorities and said they had tried several ways to end the hunger strike, without success, The Times reported.