Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has gone on a hunger strike in solidarity with prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. He will go without food and drink only water in protest against the treatment of Ahmed Rabbani and Khalid Qasim in the US-controlled prison in Cuba.
According to reports, the prisoners have gone without food for 26 days. Both say they have experienced more than 10 years of “torture, injustice and indifference” in detention. The portly Labour MP, who is known in some Westminster circles as Tom ‘two-dinners’ Watson, wrote to the Guardian explaining his decision.
He said the prison will not force feed the Rabbani and Qasim because of rule changes and the pair have been denied medical treatment. He also claims that they are not being correctly monitored by prison staff.
“This is not some George Osborne-inspired weight-loss plan,” he joked, poking fun at the fitness-conscious former Tory chancellor.
Watson also called on British Prime Minister Theresa May to intervene in the situation. Rabbani, a citizen of Pakistan, has been detained at Guantanamo for over 12 years, while Yemeni Qasim has been held there for more than 15 years.
Major Ben Sakrisson, a spokesman for the Department of Defense (DoD), told the Guardian that the prison will no longer feed prisoners through the nose when they go on hunger strike.
“There has not been a change in policy.
“Existing policy is just being reinforced with our personnel,” he said.
“In some instances in the past, attempts to provide detainees who claimed that they were on hunger strike with a measure of dignity through voluntary enteral feedings unintentionally created a situation that potentially encouraged future hunger strikes. As a result, the pre-existing standard of medical necessity will be enforced in the future.”
Hunger strikes in Guantanamo occur frequently when inmates protest against their sentences and their treatment. Medical experts say it takes around six to eight weeks to die from malnutrition for a previously healthy person. Severe and lasting medical issues can be caused in as little as four weeks.