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US reports 75 Guantanamo prisoners on revived hunger strike

[JURIST] The US military said Monday that the number of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees participating in a hunger strike has increased from 3 to about 75. Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand described the strike as an effort to attract attention. He speculated that it may be related to the events of May 18 [JURIST report], when 4 detainees supposedly attempted to commit suicide and several other detainees attacked US soldiers who tried to intervene. According to Durand, quoted by AP, “The hunger strike is consistent with al-Qaida practice and reflects detainee attempts to elicit media attention to bring international pressure on the United States to release them back to the battlefield.” Rights lawyers suggest, however, that the action may be a sign of increased frustration and desperation by inmates at the camp, only 10 of whom have been charged to date.

The latest wave of hunger strikes at Guantanamo began in July 2005, with fifty-two detainees reported to be on strike [JURIST report]. By September the numbers had burgeoned to 128 or more [JURIST report]. In February 2006, faced with aggressive force-feeding measures [JURIST report], including strapping prisoners into restraint chairs for extended periods of time to enable them to be fed through tubes and to prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward, the numbers had dwindled to 3 or 4. The military has maintained that such measures were “safe and humane” [AFPS report]. The World Medical Association opposes the use of forced feeding as coercive [policy statement]. AP has more.

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