Men cleared for release but still detained in Guantanamo have revealed the methods used to attempt to break the hunger strike by authorities at the US prison. The revelations come amid growing fears for the health of Shaker Aamer.
Samir Mukbel, a cleared Yemeni whose op-ed in the New York Times first drew attention to the practice of force-feeding, said in a call to his lawyer at the human rights charity Reprieve: “It’s very difficult to continue the hunger strike for more than seven months. Whoever wants to continue the hunger strike will be put in isolation. Even the nutrition person told us that the Colonel wants us to stop or go to isolation. So how can you continue your hunger strike when people are treating you this way? There was a lot of pressure to put a stop to our peaceful hunger strike which was just peacefully asking for our rights.”
In a letter to his lawyer, Syrian Abu Wa’el wrote: “I heard the news about our brother Shaker Aamer. The riot squad [Extreme Reaction Force] storms his cell every day approximately five times. 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.
They took all Shaker’s belongings in order to provoke him. So as not to take their bait, he responded by saying he would rather not take them back. So they returned them to him by force! I heard that Shaker endured a week without any nourishment, food and otherwise.”
In order to take calls or have meetings with their lawyers, detainees must endure an arduous process which can involve genital groping. Shaker Aamer has recently refused three calls and one visit with members of his legal team, prompting concerns over his worsening treatment and health. The US recently announced the hunger strike in the prison to be over, yet at least 16 men remain on strike and are being force-fed, a practice denounced by the UN and the World Medical Association.
More than half of the men detained at the prison have been cleared for release yet remain detained without charge or trial. The UK government consistently says that they want British resident Shaker Aamer returned to his wife and children in London. Prime Minister Cameron raised his case with President Obama at the recent G8 summit.
Reprieve’s Strategic Director Cori Crider, said: “Shaker Aamer – and all my clients – have been brutally punished for simply conducting a peaceful protest. This treatment combined with what he must endure to speak with his lawyers is clearly proving too much for Shaker and he has retreated into himself. This is deeply worrying and has to stop. Obama must send the cleared men home.”