Guards fire on Gitmo hunger-strikers

Military guards at Guantanámo Bay fired four “non-lethal” rounds at hunger-striking detainees the morning of April 13, as the facility commander forced them from a communal area into single cells. Some of the detainees used “improvised weapons” to resist being moved, according to a Department of Defense news release. No guards or detainees were reported to be seriously injured. Currently, 43 detainees are on hunger strike; 13 of those are being force-fed. Yet the military denies that it is attempting to break the strike. “Detainees may continue to hunger strike,” but medical staff will now be able to monitor their condition, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand of Joint Task Force Guantanamo. He said the move to single cells was taken “to ensure that detainees are not being coerced by other detainees to participate in the hunger strike.” (NYT, Huffington Post, WP, April 13)

On the day of the distrubance, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay since 2002, entitled “Gitmo Is Killing Me.” Dictated through an Arabic interpreter to his lawyers at the legal charity Reprieve in an unclassified telephone call, the piece relates how the Yemeni went to Afghanistan on a false promise of work, fled to Pakistan with the US invasion of 2001, was arrested when he attempted to contact the Yemeni embassy, and turned over to the US military. It denies US claims that he had served as a guard for Osama bin Laden. It details the horrors of being force-fed, which may amount to torture, and concludes: “I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.”

On April 15, US district judge Thomas Hogan in Washington DC turned down a plea for relief from Guantánamo Bay hunger strikers, despite hearing testimony that guards displayed “deliberate indifference” to inmates’ medical needs, and forced them to drink dirty water. Dr Stephen Xenakis, certified by Judge Hogan as an expert witness, based his testimony on interviews with detainees, and suggested that Gitmo authorities are deliberately denying potable water in a bid to break the resolve of prisoners. But the judge denied an emergency motion for relief, ruling that he did not have jurisdiction over the matter. He added that petitioner Musa’ab Omar al Madhwani—who is said to be in “imminent danger” of death—had “self-manufactured” his health situation. (The Guardian, April 15)