Now entering its third month, the hunger strike among prisoners at Guantánamo Bay continues, as the men there continue to risk their lives to protest their indefinite detention. According to defense lawyers, almost all of the men in Camp 6, a communal living area for more “cooperative” prisoners, are participating in the hunger strike. Prisoners who have stopped eating have lost more than 30 pounds. Medical experts confirm that the consequences of extended fasting can be extreme:
irreversible cognitive impairment and physiological damage such as loss of hearing, blindness, and hemorrhage may begin to occur by the 40th day of a hunger strike, and death follows thereafter.
The hunger strike presents in stark terms the criminal nature of our government’s detention policy. The government has cleared over half of the men at the prison for release, but still keeps then locked away from their families and contact with the outside world, with no end in sight. That these men are willing to risk their lives to protest their confinement, despite the fact that they have been cleared for release highlights the emptiness of President Obama’s promise to close the prison. Even the military has recognized that the administration’s failure to close the prison has triggered this desperate protest.
Gen. John Kelly, the head of U.S. Southern Command, explained to the House Armed Services Committee last week, detainees “had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated . . . when the president backed off. . . . He said nothing about it in his inauguration speech. . . . He said nothing about it in his State of the Union speech. . . . He’s not restaffing the office that . . . looks at closing the facility.”
In solidarity with the hunger strikers, organizations, including Witness Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International and World Can’t Wait are calling for an emergency National Day of Action on April 11 to demand the closure of Guantánamo and an end to indefinite detention.The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently echoed these calls, noting that the imprisonment of many of the prisoners without charge or trial is a violation of international law. A number of groups, including BORDC, sent a letter to President Obama to ask that he begin to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo and appoint a high level official to take responsibility for closing the prison. People of conscience can take action to call for the forever prison’s closure:
Raise your voice! Join the Day of Action! You can: Organize a local demonstration demanding the closure of Guantánamo. Ideal locations are Federal buildings, congressional offices, and U.S. military sites like recruitment centers. We can help you plan a rally. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Call the White House comment line at 202.456.1111 or switchboard at 202.456.1414 and say, “President Obama, there is a humanitarian crisis at Guantánamo. I urge you to swiftly close the prison by releasing the men you will not charge and by giving fair trials to those you will.” You can also e-mail the White House from www.whitehouse.gov/contact Twitter Storm President @BarackObama @WhiteHouse Keep your promise: #closegitmo #GitmoHungerStrike