Published time: March 26, 2013 13:23
Prisoners indefinitely detained at Guantanamo Bay have again been denied direct access to their lawyers. The US Navy has canceled commercial flights to the detention facility, where over 100 captives are reportedly continuing a 49-day-long hunger strike
Inmates’ defense lawyers may have no way to reach Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay prison after the Navy decided to discontinue commercial flights to the military base, allegedly because of an old regulation that had been ‘overlooked.’ The order came shortly after the lawyers sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to take action to end the mass protest at Guantanamo.
More prisoners have allegedly joined the hunger strike this week; three were reportedly hospitalized, and 10 are being force-fed.
The inmates’ lawyers have claimed that over 100 prisoners are taking part in the life-threatening hunger strike; according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, 130 inmates are taking part in the mass protest over their treatment and conditions at the prison. Many of them have reportedly lost a substantial amount of weight.
Pardiss Kebriaei an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents a Yemeni Gitmo detainee, told RT there were “serious health repercussions” to the hunger strike, now in its eighth week, such as “loss of hearing, potential blindness.”
“There is potential for death as well if the hunger strike continues for weeks,” the lawyer warned. Her client has allegedly lost 20lbs (9kg) since the beginning of the strike.
The collective protest was reportedly triggered by the prison staff’s seizure of inmates’ personal belongings. The hunger strike began on February 6, with the prisoners protesting against the confiscation of their personal letters, photographs and mail, as well as the allegedly sacrilegious handling of their Korans during searches of their cells.
While US officials have downplayed the hunger strike, the case has drawn severe criticism from the international community. Although half of Guantanamo detainees have received papers from the US government clearing them to be transferred out of the prison, they are still being held at the camp.
“Indefinite detention without charge at Guantanamo and Bagram and unfair military commission trials are a damaging blight on the human rights record of the United States. We urge the US government to bring an end to these illegal practices by either prosecuting these detainees in civilian courts or releasing them,” the UN said in a statement.
Amnesty International has called Guantanamo an “American gulag.”
“Instead of justice for the 9/11 attacks, Guantanamo has brought us torture, indefinite detention, unfair trials and hunger strikes,” Amnesty International’s head of the Security with Human Rights Campaign said.
A few months ago, the US State Department shut down the legal office working to close the prison. The detention camp in eastern Cuba reportedly holds 166 men seized in counterterrorism operations, most of whom have been held without charge for a decade.
Human rights organizations have reported hundreds of suicide attempts, at least seven of which were successful. Last September, a Yemeni detainee took his life after spending more than a decade at Guantanamo. Adnan Latif had been cleared for transfer by both the Bush and Obama administrations, but was never released.
Although Barack Obama pledged to shut down the facility at the beginning of his first term as president, the facility remains open.
Last week, the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) requested $49 million to build a new prison building at Guantanamo Bay to give shelter to “special detainees,” as well as to carry out other “necessary” renovations.
The proposed facility was conceived as replacement for Camp 7, which was constructed to hold 14 “high-value” detainees — including the self-described 9/11 attack architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who had been in CIA custody, but were handed over to the military in 2006.