Letters Detail Punitive Tactics Used On Guantánamo Hunger Strikers
The US military secretly used a variety of tactics to break the resolve of the Guantánamo Bay hunger strikers, including placing them in solitary confinement if they continued to refuse food, newly declassified interviews with detainees reveal.
One prisoner also said that the last British resident held inside the camp,Shaker Aamer, had been targeted and humiliated by the authorities to the point where it became impossible for the 44-year-old to continue his protest.
The US military recently announced the end of the six-month mass hunger strike among detainees at Guantánamo Bay. But human rights groups argue that such proclamations are disingenuous as at least 16 inmates are still force-fed daily, and two are in hospital.
One detainee, 42-year-old Syrian national Abu Wa’el Dhiab, reported that the Extreme Reaction Force team, the camp’s military riot squad, would “storm” Aamer’s cell five times a day in an attempt to crush his resolve during the strike.
In letters recounting Aamer’s treatment, which have only just been declassified, Wa’el said: “They have deprived him of food, water and medicine. Then the riot squad uses the excuse of giving him water and food and medicine to storm his cell again.”
Wa’el, who like Aamer has spent 11 years inside the camp, added: “They took him to the clinic, tore his clothes off and left him with only his underwear for long hours, taunting him.”
Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian detainee who has been cleared for release, corroborated the claim that solitary confinement was used as a punishment for prisoners making political statements. Belbacha, 43, described how the authorities were punishing hunger strikers by confiscating their belongings. “My glasses, legal papers, toothbrush, toothpaste and all my other necessities have been taken.”
Testimonies of Belbacha, Mukbel and Aamer are among those featured in an animation narrated by actors David Morrissey and Peter Capaldi depicting life inside Guantánamo Bay. The film also uses testimony from the recently released Nabil Hadjarab, provided by their lawyers at legal charity Reprieve.
Mukbel, 35, added that other tactics were utilised to whittle down the size of the hunger strike. He said the temperature was deliberately manipulated to make conditions inside the camp even more uncomfortable and that during the hunger strike searches of cells were timed to disrupt detainees’ sleep.
Cori Crider, a lawyer at Reprieve, said: “The US authorities have, with some glee, announced the hunger strike to be over. What they fail to tell you is the horrific things they did to crush the hunger strikers’ spirits, as my clients have described. And yet still there are at least 16 men striking and being brutally force-fed twice a day.”