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Iran Press TV

Over half of Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike, says US official

Iran Press TV

Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:58AM GMT

Over half of the detainees at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison are on a hunger strike in protest against jail conditions and their imprisonment without charge or trial for more than a decade, a US military official says.

US Army Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House said on Sunday that of the 166 inmates being held at the controversial US prison in Cuba, 84 prisoners were refusing all food and had been classified as hunger-strikers.

House added that 16 of the 84 captives were being force-fed via tubes snaked up their nose and into their stomach, and five had been hospitalized.

About a week after a clash between prison guards and inmates, the number of prisoners taking part in the Guantanamo Bay hunger strike is steadily growing.

Among those refusing food is Shaker Aamer, who has spent 11 years at Guantanamo. He remains behind bars even though he was cleared for release six years ago.

Aamer said on Sunday that he had lost a quarter of his body weight since going on hunger strike more than 60 days ago.

"I barely notice all of my medical ailments any more - the back pain from the beatings I have taken, the rheumatism from the frigid air conditioning, the asthma exacerbated by the toxic sprays they use to abuse us. There is an endless list," Aamer stated.

"I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow. I hope if the worse comes to the worst that my children will understand that I cared for the rights of those suffering around me almost as much as I care for them."

The hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay prison has attracted outcry from the international community and human rights organizations.

Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has urged the Obama administration to mend the situation in Guantanamo that has compelled prisoners to starve themselves. Maurer has criticized force-feeding, which has been used as a solution to the hunger strike.

"The issue of Guantanamo is politically blocked in this country. One important message I brought to all my US interlocutors over the past few days was also that this is an untenable blockage, that they should put their energy and political energy into finding a new compromise that will move the delicate issues forward," Maurer said at a news conference on April 11.

"There's a discrepancy between the position of the United States and the ICRC," he added, explaining that the Red Cross, like other international medical groups, denounced the practice of force-feeding.

"If we see a hunger strike today, we interpret this as a symptom, as an indicator about the lack of perspective that those detainees have, the impression of an American government which does not follow up on promises, promises that have been made on transfers," Maurer stated.

Upon taking office, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order to stop military commissions in order to close down Guantanamo by 2010. However, the US administration has so far failed to shut the prison.


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