‘Gitmo guards try to end hunger strike by making conditions worse’
The longest hunger strike at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay began almost two months ago, and there is no sign the crisis will be resolved. Some of the inmates protesting over their mistreatment at the jail are reportedly close to death.
To find out more about the situation, RT spoke with Cindy Panuco, a lawyer for one of the detainees who is currently at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay.
RT:The man you represent has been in jail since 2002. Is he one of the hunger strikers?
Cindy Panuco: Yes, he has been hunger striking since February 6, 2013.
RT:What's his condition right now?
CP: Well, I have met with him for the last three days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The first day that I saw him he was very weak, he had not been able to sleep because he said that the camp authorities had lowered the temperature in much of the camp to very, very frigid temperatures. It appears that the guards are trying to end the hunger strike by making conditions more difficult for the prisoners here, including making the camp very cold.
And he had lost 40 pounds when I saw him. He used to weight 167, and he’s now 125 pounds. His condition is very, very weak, he is in a lot of pain, he’s having a lot of stomach problems. It’s very sad.
RT: Is your client prepared to die? How does he describe his motivation, what are his exact demands?
CP: The desecration of the Koran was one of the initial reasons why the prisoners initially started the strike. They believed that the Koran – which had not been searched by camp authorities for many years now and has never been a security threat – has never been a reason for any kind of security concern, would suddenly be searched again by the camp authorities. It had not happened since when President Bush was running the prison camp. And that was what started the strike. And when the prisoners began to strike it seemed that camp authorities began to treat them more harshly to try to end the strike, and so many more men joined the strike to protest the searching of the Korans and the worsening conditions and more harsh treatment here. And also it’s the desperation that, instead of getting better, things are getting worse here at the camp for them. There are many men who are cleared for release, at least 86 of them. Now they are also being treated as prisoners, and things as I said are getting worse for them and not better and no hope.
RT:Why can’t you help them as a lawyer?
CP: We have been trying for many years. We’ve been challenging the detention in civil courts in the US. Some of the judges who were ruling on these cases have ordered for the men to be released, while others ordered they cannot be released. In cases where judges ordered the release of men, the government challenged those cases and appealed those orders.
Also, in my understanding, President Obama has closed the one office headed by Daniel Fried that had been established in the Department of State to carry out the closing of Guantanamo. Now that the [office] has been closed, it seems that there is no one in the government and the administration to help with the closure of the prison. We continue to just challenge the detention in our courts.
RT:Why should Washington be worrying about what is happening in Guantanamo Bay?
CP: Because the reputation of the US in the world is at stake here. And if the US does not come to the table, if government authorities do not come to the table and discuss with the detainees the improvement of the conditions here – there are men that are going to begin to die for no reason at all, when the simple solution would be to stop the searching of the Koran. Or, if not, to allow the men to turn over their Koran so they are not searched. As simple as that. It would get the men to be eating tomorrow and to be back on track to be healthy.