Guantanamo Bay hunger strikes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Captives who will not comply with their force-feeding have their arms, legs and head restrained in a feeding chair. They remain strapped in the chair until the nutrient is digested, to prevent induced vomiting.
Shaker Aamer organized and participated in the 2005 hunger strike

The first well-known Guantanamo Bay hunger strikes began in the middle of 2005, when detainees held by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp initiated two hunger strikes. The detainees organized several widespread hunger strikes to protest their innocence and the conditions of their confinement.[1][2][3][4] According to camp authorities, other captives who engaged in long-term hunger strikes, committed suicide in June 2006. Widespread hunger strikes recurred in 2013.

Hunger strikes began in 2002, when the camp first opened, but the secrecy with which the camp was operated prevented news of those strikes reaching the public.

According to historian Andy Worthington, the author of The Guantanamo Files, the weight of at least eighty captives dropped to below 100 pounds (45 kg) each.[1]

Camp authorities responded by force-feeding captives, according to the camp's Standard Operating Procedures.[5] They had started isolated cases of force-feeding, called "re-feeding", early in the camp's history. Human rights workers, and Physicians' professional associations, have criticized the use of force-feeding on mentally competent patients at Guantanamo.[1][6][7]

The American Department of Defense (DoD) spokesman, Lieutenant Commander Flex Plexico, said on July 21, 2005 that 50 detainees were involved in the hunger strike. The first hunger strike ended on July 28, 2005, when prison authorities agreed to bring the camp into compliance with the Geneva Conventions. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the strike had become so widespread that medics could not manage the needs and elected to stop making their regular medical calls. The prisoners spent 26 days without food.[8]

According to human rights workers, the prison authorities had a waiver form they asked detainees to sign if they wanted to refuse intravenous rehydration. The detainees had all been advised, by their lawyers, not to sign anything which their lawyers had not reviewed.

One concession the American authorities acknowledge making was to supply the detainees with bottles of clean water to drink with each meal.

The detainees reported to their lawyers that the prison authorities had agreed that they would begin to treat them in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions. A week later in early August 2005, when the prison authorities were not abiding by their commitment, the detainees started a second hunger strike. By September 2, the DOD spokesman Brad Blackner said that 76 detainees were participating in the second hunger strike. Human-rights workers estimate that both hunger strikes had between 150 and 200 participants.

Many of the individuals captured in Afghanistan had been taken into detention at Guantanamo Bay without trial. These individuals were termed as "enemy combatants". Until July 7, 2006, the United States administration under President George W. Bush had treated these individuals as outside the Geneva Conventions. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that international law applies to enemy combatants.[9]

Eighteen-year-old Omar Khadr, one of the hunger strikers, told his lawyer that other catalysts were the detainees' concerns that the guards were not showing respect for their religion, as they sometimes turned on loud fans, played loud music, and whistled to disrupt their prayer meetings. Khadr said the prison authorities broadcast the call to prayers only four times daily, rather than the required five for religious obligations. He also reported that many of the detainees resented when women GIs broadcast the call to prayer.

In September 2005, the New York Times reported that as many as 200 prisoners, a third of the camp, had taken to hunger striking, and that at least 20 of them were being force-fed through nasal tubes and given fluids intravenously. Major Weir, a spokesman at the base, said "We will not let them starve themselves to the point of causing harm to themselves."[10]

On October 26, 2005, a federal judge ordered the Government to provide information about the condition of detainees to lawyers representing the hunger strikers. The Government has contested the detainees' claims of rough treatment during forced feeding. The court's decision reflects major changes from the early years of the camp's operation, when almost no information was obtainable by attorneys. The Government did not immediately announce whether it would appeal the judge's ruling.

On November 4, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated at a Pentagon news conference that he would not permit United Nations investigators to interview the striking detainees. He said the International Committee of the Red Cross would continue to have unlimited access to interview them.

On December 30, 2005, the military reported that there were 84 strikers as of Christmas Day, with 46 having joined that day. In the April 14, 2008, edition of the New Yorker magazine, Jeffrey Toobin reported that there were about ten hunger strikers at Guantanamo. The overall population had declined markedly, as many detainees had been repatriated or transferred to detention in other countries.

2013 hunger strike[edit]

A new wave of the hunger strike arose in early 2013, at its peak in July when 106 out of the 166 detainees were considered on hunger strike, with 45 of them being force-fed by the prison administration. [11][12]

On December 4, 2013, the US military announced that it would no longer disclose information about the hunger strikes, explaining that "The release of this information serves no operational purpose". [13]

The last disclosed figures in December showed numbers of hunger strikers rising to 15, with all being force-fed.[14]

Dhiab litigation[edit]

In 2013, hunger striker Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab sought an injunction in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to stop the government from force-feeding him.[15] In October 2014, District Judge Gladys Kessler determined that she had no jurisdiction over confinement conditions at Guantanamo.[16] After the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that theory, Dhabi again sought an injunction to stop the force feedings.[15] In November 2014, District Judge Kessler again denied Dhabi relief.[17]

However, in the course of discovery, the government disclosed that it had recorded its force-feedings of Dhabi and classified the videotapes as "SECRET".[15] Sixteen news organizations intervened seeking access to the tapes of Dhabi being force fed.[15] In October 2014, District Judge Kessler ordered the tapes unsealed.[18]

The D.C. Circuit, in an unsigned opinion joined by Chief Circuit Judge Merrick Garland, determined it did not yet have jurisdiction over the interlocutory order but encouraged the district court to consider additional declarations made by the government.[19] In December 2015, District Judge Kessler again ordered the tapes to be redacted and unsealed.[20]

In March 2017, the D.C. Circuit ordered that the tapes remain secret, with the panel unanimously voting to reverse but with each of the three judges providing different reasons in separate opinions.[21] Senior Judge A. Raymond Randolph argued that the press has no right to access classified court filings made by prisoners petitioning for habeas corpus and that the lower court clearly erred by not deferring to declarations by Rear Admirals Kyle Cozad and Richard W. Butler asserting a national security threat.[15] Judge Judith W. Rogers argued that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides the public a qualified right to access prisoners' court filings but agreed that the government had identified a national security interest justifying secrecy.[15] Senior Judge Stephen F. Williams also agreed that national security justified secrecy but questioned if the government could logically keep all Guantanamo filings secret.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Andy Worthington (2009). "Starvation statistics". Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-12-21.
  2. ^ Barbara Olshansky, Gitanjali Gutierrez (2005-09-08). "The Guantánamo Prisoner Hunger Strikes & Protests: February 2002 – August 2005". Center for Constitutional Rights. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2010-01-21.
  3. ^ Charlie Savage (2005-12-30). "46 Guantanamo detainees join hunger strike: US says increase since Christmas brings total to 84". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2010-01-21. The US military said yesterday that a long-running hunger strike among detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison underwent a very significant increase" starting on Christmas Day, more than doubling the number of prisoners who are protesting their indefinite detention without trial by refusing to eat.
  4. ^ "Doctors attack U.S. over Guantanamo". BBC News. 2006-03-10. Archived from the original on 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2006-03-15. The letter, in the medical journal 'The Lancet,' said doctors who used restraints and force-feeding should be punished by their professional bodies.
  5. ^ "Standard Operating Procedure: Voluntary and Voluntary total fasting and re-feeding". Joint Task Force Guantanamo. 2004-10-15. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-02-02. Retrieved 2010-01-21. The DH [detention hospital] staff will monitor the health of any detainee who is on a VF [voluntary fast] or VTF [voluntary total fast]. Upon notification DH medical personnel will do the following: (1.) A complete medical record review. (2.) An intake (food/fluids) history. (3.) General physical examination to include: Vital signs (HR, BP, RR, T), weight and body mass index (BMI)...
  6. ^ Jacob M. Appel (2009-11-17). "Beyond Guantanamo: Torture Thrives in Connecticut". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2010-01-21. When the United States began force-feeding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, two hundred-fifty prominent physicians signed an open letter to a leading British journal, 'The Lancet,' called for sanctions against the medical professionals involved in these nonconsensual interventions. mirror
  7. ^ "Gitmo Hunger Strikers' Numbers Grow". The New Standard. 2005-12-30. Archived from the original on 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2010-01-21. The new hunger strikers refused food on Christmas day, according to the military, and joined a five-month fast kept up by detainees to draw attention to what they, human rights groups and their lawyers say are inhumane conditions outlawed by international accords and domestic law. The renewed strike comes amid accusations from the United Nations that long-term hunger striking detainees have been treated cruelly.
  8. ^ "New Hunger Strike Begins after the Department of Defense Reneges on Promises to Detainees". The Center for Constitutional Rights. 2005-08-31. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-05-31. At one point in July, the strike became so widespread that medics could not manage the need and elected to stop making their regular medical calls. The prisoners spent 26 days without food.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ "The Prisoner - Moazzam Begg". Archived from the original on 2018-03-02. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  10. ^ "Guantanamo Prisoners Go on Hunger Strike". The New York Times. 2005-09-18. Retrieved 2011-05-31. As many as 200 prisoners - more than a third of the camp - have refused food in recent weeks to protest conditions and prolonged confinement without trial, according to the accounts of lawyers who represent them. While military officials put the number of those participating at 105, they acknowledge that 20 of them, whose health and survival are being threatened, are being kept at the camp's hospital and fed through nasal tubes and sometimes given fluids intravenously.
  11. ^ Virginian-Pilot. "Entertainment". Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on 2013-05-06. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  12. ^ Guantanamo Bay Hunger Strike timeline Archived 2013-10-04 at the Wayback Machine,, March 23, 2013.
  13. ^ "Guantanamo detainees' hunger strikes will no longer be disclosed by U.S. military". The Huffington Post. 4 December 2013. Archived from the original on 2017-12-16. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  14. ^ "TRACKING THE HUNGER STRIKE". Miami Herald. 2 December 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Note, Recent Case: D.C. Circuit Holds Press Cannot Unseal Classified Videos of Guantanamo Bay Detainee, 131 Harv. L. Rev. 902 (2018).
  16. ^ Dhiab v. Obama, 952 F. Supp. 2d 154 (D.D.C. 2013).
  17. ^ Dhiab v. Obama, 74 F. Supp. 3d 16 (D.D.C. 2014).
  18. ^ Dhiab v. Obama, 70 F. Supp. 3d 486 (D.D.C. 2014).
  19. ^ Dhiab v. Obama, 787 F.3d 563 (D.C. Cir. 2015).
  20. ^ Dhiab v. Obama, 141 F. Supp. 3d 23 (D.D.C. 2015).
  21. ^ Dhiab v. Trump, 852 F.3d 1087 (D.C. Cir. 2017).

External links[edit]