Number of Guantanamo hunger strikers spikes

[JURIST] US military authorities at the Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] detention facility announced [statement, PDF] Thursday that the number of participants in the ongoing hunger strike at the prison has surged, reaching an acknowledged total of 84, including 48 who have joined the action since last Sunday. The Pentagon defines a hunger striker as someone who has refused food for nine days or more. The number of Guantanamo hunger strikers has varied since the latest action began in August in protest at camp treatmant and a lack of hearings. The US Southern Command statement says that "This technique (hunger striking) is consistent with al-Qaida training and reflects detainee attempts to elicit media attention and bring pressure on the United States Government to release them."

The US has force-fed some of the hunger strikers to prevent them from dying, but after some detainees alleged harsh treatment - such as inserting feeding tubes without anesthesia and reusing tubes without sanitization - their lawyers won a court order [JURIST report] in October mandating that they be notified by the Defense Department before their clients could be force-fed, and directing the government to provide detainee medical records from before the hunger strike so that their conditions could be better assessed. Thursday's Southern Command statement insists that "Enemy combatants on voluntary fast are closely monitored by medical professionals, receive excellent medical care, and when required, the appropriate amount of daily nutrition and hydration through enteral feeding." Reuters has more.

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