There´s still no end in sight to the hunger strike being staged by prisoners at the US detention facility in Guantánamo Bay. Inmates began to refuse food in early February and now nearly half of the 166 prisoners have joined the hunger strike.
The prisoners are protesting against their hopeless situation in Guantánamo. The facility was established in 2002 to hold people who were believed to be linked to the global war on terror. Some of them have been held there ever since, without any charges being filed against them. Others were mistakenly arrested by US forces and taken to Guantánamo Bay. They can’t be released because no other country wants to take them or because they could face persecution in their fatherland.
Fifteen of the people on hunger strike are being force-fed, in violation of international law. This is not the first time that the United States has violated international law in its treatment of the prisoners. According to a report released in 2010 by Physicians for Human Rights, for instance, CIA agents together with medical personnel forced prisoners to take medication in order to make it easier for them to obtain a confession.
According to Dutch lawyer Geert Jan Knoops, who served on the defence team of one of the Guantánamo detainees a few years ago, “the problem is that all the alarming reports that have been released about the situation in Guantánamo have not convinced President Obama to close the detention facility or to transfer the prisoners to the mainland.”
Before he took office, the US leader had pledged to shown Guantánamo down. But he has since reversed his position. In 2011, the president signed a defence bill that allows terror suspects to be held indefinitely and even opens the way for US citizens with close ties to Al Qa’eda or the Taliban to be sent to Guantanamo.
Earlier this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay again urged the US to close the detention facility. Instead, she said, the American authorities have instead entrenched a system of arbitrary detention in clear violation of international law. “Where credible evidence exists against Guantánamo detainees”, she said, “they should be charged and prosecuted. Otherwise, they must be released.”
The international condemnation and the ongoing hunger strike have not altered the US position. Caught in this endless legal limbo, “the prisoners have lost all hope”, according to the detention centre’s Muslim-American cultural advisor, who goes by the name of Zak. “There will be more than one death,” he added.