[JURIST] The US military announced on Monday that the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] hunger strike has increased to 42 detainees. The number was believed to be 30 last Thursday. The military attributes the increase to the recent seven year anniversary of the facility's opening. Another possible contributing factor is the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama [transition website], who recently reaffirmed his campaign promise to immediately close the prison [JURIST report]. Human right groups believe that the number of detainees currently on a hunger-strike is much higher. Detainees who refuse to eat are force-fed through tubes in order to prevent them from starving, a practice that has led to criticism. Last week the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] sent a letter [text, PDF; press release] to Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking him to end the practice.
Hunger strikes have been an issue at Guantanamo Bay for several years. In September 2005, the number of detainees on strike [JURIST report] was at least 128. After instituting the force-feeding measures [JURIST report] the number of detainees on strike dwindled to just three or four. The current strike is not the first in connection to an anniversary of the facility's opening. In January 2007, the number of detainees on strike more than doubled [JURIST report] as the detention center's fifth anniversary approached.