A report in The Huffington Post quotes a lawyer for detainees as Guantanamo Bay as saying the hunger strikers, growing in numbers and days on strike, are determined to leave their unjust imprisonment either “alive or in a box.” Latest reports in this article put 130 of the 166 detainees on hunger strike, though the military denies majority of the strikers claims,’ and some are or have entered more than forty days without food which is when permanent damage and fatalities begin.
In clearer terms, the US government could be responsible for the death of detainees who hope for nothing else than release or death after torture and sadistic imprisonment for years. The Huffington Post points out these harsh conditions instigating the hunger strike loosened in recent years, especially after 86 detainees were cleared for release, and revolted only after a change in command:
“…the camp had become peaceful over the past few years, with detainees being given a measure of dignity and, for the most cooperative, additional privileges. That changed when Bogdan took control in June 2012 and began confiscating personal items such as photographs, letters and yoga mats, cranking down cell temperatures, and reimposing the practice of searching detainee Qurans for contraband.”
The quote references Col. John Bogdan, whom a detainee lawyer provides greater insight about:
“Bogdan brought a tough-guy approach to detention operations and has ruled the camps with an iron fist. Marked by displays of power for power’s sake, his approach has led to mayhem in the camps…
“In September, Bogdan, without provocation, had his men storm Camp 6. During the fall, conditions in the camps deteriorated: for example, temperatures in the cells were lowered to 62˚. In January, a tower guard in the rec area fired into a group of detainees, wounding one, and in early February, the mass hunger strike broke out.
“Bogdan lit the fuse when he or one of his OICs had the guards conduct a sweeping search of the men’s cells in camp 6, where about 130 of the 166 detainees were held. Guards arbitrarily confiscated personal items including family letters and photographs, legal papers, and extra blankets. (Civilians confiscated the papers.) Bogdan or his OICs also attempted to search the men’s Qurans, using interpreters to do the dirty work.”
130 prisoners now refuse nourishment because one ranking officer in the military is unleashing his sadism on innocent, previously abused men held in Guantanamo in contradiction to international law. The crimes of torture and indefinite detention committed against these men are evil enough alone. The declaration that 86 are worthy of release years ago, but still the US government keeps them in chains is worse. The routine humiliation and displays of power by Bogdan and his subordinates that disrupted a prison coming to peace is despicable.
Worst though, the actions of this sadistic general who exercises power against defenseless men on the margins of our society could lead to their deaths. A hunger strike of this length is not undertaken lightly, and lawyers for the detainees note how high morale is among the unjustly detained men to carry out their threat of leaving Guantanamo either “alive or in a box.” If these men die, our nation will once again kill innocent individuals without reason in a grave betrayal of those most fundamental principles this nation is founded upon – rights to life, justice, liberty, due process, etc.
Let us pray, fervently, that President Obama and our government leaders will correct this injustice before it extends too far. To get involved, connect with Witness Against Torture.