The authorities at Guantánamo Bay have ceased the ten-year practice of force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners, under a new policy by the Trump Administration.
Some so-called ‘forever’ prisoners have been striking for as long as four years, peacefully protesting a lack of charges or a trial. The ten-year practice had been to force feed them when they have lost one fifth of their body weight. However, human rights organisation Reprieve understands that on September 20th, a new Senior Medical Officer (SMO) stopped tube-feeding the strikers, and ended the standard practice of closely monitoring their declining health.
While the total number of strikers is not unclassified, it is estimated to include six of the 24 ‘low value’ prisoners. Among them is Ahmed Rabbani, detained without charge since September 2002 and on hunger strike since 2013. He reportedly weighs just 95 pounds, and is suffering internal bleeding.
Khalid Qassim, also held without charge since 2002, has likewise been on strike since 2013, and gone without any food since September 20. He has told his lawyers at Reprieve: “I can’t walk. My joints, my hips hurt me too much.” His blood sugar has dropped to 55.
Mr Qassim added: “Before the medical authorities at Guantanamo used to say we watch your health, meals or your weight, your health is important, if you’re in a bad condition, forcefeeding is required. After the 20th, they don’t say that.”
The prisoners have told Reprieve that the new policy, which is combined with offering them trays of food, is designed to force them to end their strike. “I don’t want to die,” said Mr Rabbani, “but after four years of peaceful protest I am hardly going to stop because they tell me to. I will definitely stop when President Trump frees the prisoners who have been cleared, and allows everyone else a fair trial.”
Commenting, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, Reprieve counsel for Guantanamo detainees said:
“This new Trump policy should not be implemented in secret. Not only will the detainees die as a result of their peaceful protest, but their deaths will spark still more anger if the military coerces them by manipulating their medical treatment. The Trump Administration must urgently allow independent medics to examine these detainees, before it’s too late.”