'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Another Hunger Strike at Guantanamo 

I have frequently posted on the attempts of detainees at Guantanamo to compel improvements in their conditions, if not their release. Brutal methods of forced feeding have been used to break them, including the use of a torture device reminiscient of the Middle Ages known as the restraint chair. Click on the Guantanamo label at the conclusion of this post for a list of my posts on the topic.

Now, according to Nicole Colson, yet another hunger strike has commenced:

More detainees at the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are so desperate to end their suffering that they are going on hunger strike--willing to risk death if it means an end to their imprisonment.

According to press reports, at least 13 prisoners are on hunger strike in protest of the harsh conditions at "Camp 6," a new maximum-security section of the camp. Two have reportedly been refusing food since August 2005, while most of the others began striking in January or February.

Most are forced to undergo daily force-feedings at the hands of their U.S. captors--an often brutal and dehumanizing process that lawyers and human rights advocates say is meant to make detainees suffer more.

The novel aspect of this story is Colson's reference to the creation of Camp 6, the new maximum security section of the camp:

According to "Cruel and Inhuman: Conditions of Isolation for Detainees at Guantánamo Bay," a report released earlier this month by Amnesty International, the situation inside Guantánamo is actually becoming worse for detainees--particularly the approximately 160 (out of a total of 385) detainees who are thought to be housed at Camp 6.

According to the report, Camp 6 "has created even harsher and apparently more permanent conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation in which detainees are confined to almost completely sealed, individual cells, with minimal contact with any other human being."

Prisoners in Camp 6 are confined to 8-by-10-foot cells for at least 22 hours a day, and are allowed out only infrequently to shower or to exercise in enclosed areas surrounded by high concrete-and-wire walls. They are not able to speak to each other except by shouting through a narrow gap at the bottom of their steel cell doors. There are no outside windows, and detainees have reported that air conditioning is left on high--making the metal cells intolerably cold.

Someday, Guantanamo will be closed, but the sadistic practices will undoubtedly be perpetuated elsewhere in rendition facilities around the world, and the people responsible for them will probably find themselves moving through the revolving door to lucrative positions with private military and security contractors.

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