WASHINGTON (AFP) – A hunger strike at the US military”s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has unsettled senior commanders and produced the most serious challenge yet to the military”s effort to manage hundreds of terrorism suspects.
Quoting unnamed lawyers and officials, The New York Times newspaper said as many as 200 prisoners — more than a third of the camp”s population — have refused food in recent weeks to protest conditions and prolonged confinement without trial.
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, the report said.
The military authorities were so concerned about ending a previous strike this summer that they allowed the establishment of a six-member prisoners” grievance committee, said the Times.
But the committee was quickly disbanded.
The reports quotes Major Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman at the base, as saying the prisoners who are being fed at the hospital are generally not strapped to their beds or gurneys but are in handcuffs and leg restraints.
A 21st prisoner at the hospital is voluntarily accepting liquid food, the report said.
Major Weir said the prisoners usually accept the nasal tubes passively because they know they will be restrained and fed forcibly if necessary, the paper reported.
"We will not let them starve themselves to the point of causing harm to themselves," The Times quotes the major as saying. On at least one occasion, he said, a prisoner was restrained and forcibly fed.
The paper said one law enforcement official who has been fully briefed on the events said senior military officials had grown increasingly worried about their ability to control the situation.
A senior military official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the situation as greatly troublesome for the camp”s authorities and said they had tried several ways to end the hunger strike, without success, The Times reported.