The US Military confirmed on Monday that 84 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] are on hunger strike, protesting their conditions and indefinite detention. The hunger strike [RT timeline] began in February with just a few prisoners and has grown over the past weeks to include more than half of the detainees. According to the military, while there are no life-threatening conditions [BBC report], guards are force-feeding 16 of the 84 strikers, and five are being treated in the hospital. The current hunger strike constitutes the longest protest affecting the largest number of prisoners at Guantanamo where hunger strikes have been a common form of protests. Last week, the US Department of Defense [official website] reported that detainees were being moved to single-cell living [press release] in order for the government to monitor them, and that they would be medically assessed in response to the hunger strike.
The hunger strike has stoked controversy between human rights lawyers and Guantanamo officials about whether prisoners are being provided with sufficient necessities to avoid health issues. Last week, lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners said that the US government has started to notify [JURIST report] them when their clients participating in a hunger strike are being force-fed. Last month, lawyers for one Guantanamo detainee filed an emergency motion [text, PDF; JURIST report] with the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] alleging that Guantanamo guards were failing to provide prisoners with sufficient drinking water and clothing. Earlier in March, lawyers for some inmates along with the Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website] sent a letter [JURIST report] to a rear admiral describing invasions of privacy and harsh conditions suffered by detainees, as well as the means of protest they have used, including the hunger strike. The lawyers just learned of these conditions after a military judge ruled that they were permitted to visit [JURIST report] their clients at the camp for the first time in February, although Guantanamo has long been the subject of various controversies during the Global War on Terror [JURIST backgrounder].