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Guantanamo detainee hunger strikes up over new prison facility

[JURIST] More than a dozen prisoners at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] are being subjected to daily force-feedings as a result of a long-term hunger strike, the New York Times reported Monday, the largest such number since the beginning of 2006. Lawyers for the 13 detainees on hunger strike blame the harsh conditions of a new maximum security complex which houses 160 of the roughly 385 detainees at Guantanamo. The new Camp 6 complex, according to the lawyers, is comparable to "supermax" prisons with detainees confined to 8 by 10 foot cells at least 22 hours a day. Only 10 of the suspects transferred to the new complex have been charged. Detainees have complained that they face greater isolation in Camp 6 [JURIST report] as the prisoners can only see one another when one of them is being moved. Military spokesman Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand called the complaints voiced by detainees "propaganda" and defended the new maximum security complex as more comfortable than previous conditions.

Hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay are an ongoing concern. In December 2005, US military authorities said that the number of participants in the ongoing hunger strike at the prison had surged [statement, PDF; JURIST report], reaching an acknowledged total of 84. After drastic force feeding measures drove the number down, a revived effort [JURIST report] in May 2006 found 75 detainees participating in a hunger strike. In January 2007, the number of detainees on hunger strike increased [JURIST report] to 11 from five during the detention center's fifth anniversary. On Thursday, Amnesty International [advocacy website] decried the worsening conditions at Guantanamo Bay in a report [text; press release], claiming detainees have "suffered harsh treatment throughout their detention, confined to mesh cages or maximum security cells" and that the new facility opened late last year subjects detainees to "even harsher and apparently more permanent conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation." The New York Times has more.

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