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The 2013 Guantánamo Bay Hunger Strike

The 2013 Guantánamo Bay hunger strike was the second large-scale detainee hunger strike since the detention camp was opened in 2002. The first occurred in 2005. It was claimed that the number of hunger strikers then was as high as 84 and was in response to the prisoners not being treated according to the Geneva Conventions. According to prison authorities, the 2013 hunger strike involved, at its peak, 106 of the 164 continuing detainees in Guantanámo. Also according to the prison authorities, the prisoners have been force-fed nutritional formula and electrolyte solutions by nasogastric feeding tubes. This practice has been condemned by the American Medical Association as contrary to medical ethics and, depending on the manner in which is done, as torture.

According to detainee and defense lawyer testimony, the 2013 strike is in response to deteriorating conditions in the prison itself. This includes the continued detention of inmates who have been cleared for release, the introduction of a stricter disciplinary policy for detainees, and a lack of visibility to the global public. The strike resulted in a speech by President Obama stating the opening of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp had been a mistake and reiterating his intention to have the facility closed. At the time of writing, no such action has been taken.

 

Tracking the Hunger Strike

 

The most recent publicly available document regarding the management of hunger strikes at Guantánamo is a March 5, 2013 Standard Operating Procedure. According to this document,

  • A hunger striker is defined as a detainee who communicates intent to refuse meals and misses either 9 consecutive meals or drops to a weight below 85% Ideal Body Weight (IBW).
  • An enteral feeder is a detainee on hunger strike who has been approved for forced feeding by the Commander, Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
  • A hunger striker on medical observation is a striker not yet approved for involuntary feeding, but under hospital observation.

The statistics charted here have been compiled from information forwarded to the Guantanamo Testimonials Project by LTC Samuel House and Maj. Christian Hodge, consecutive Deputy Directors of Public Affairs at JTF-GTMO. The statistics range from March 15, 2013 to May 24, 2013. Although Maj. Hodge told us no statistics were tracked outside those dates, a reporter from The Miami Herald told us that newspaper continued to track—through December 2, 2013—the statistics it received from prison authorities.

Statistics from the following dates are missing and were confirmed unavailable by the JTF-GTMO: March 16-17, March 23-24, March 30-31, April 13-15, April 18, May 1, May 4-7 (see gaps in the chart below).

This data is inconsistent with the numbers reported by hunger striking prisoners and their lawyers. Thus, according to Ramzi Kassem, a defense lawyer for several of the Guantánamo prisoners, the strike began on February 6, 2013 and involved a majority of the prisoners at the camp. The conditions of the strike have been described in the following documents:

This letter from Defense Lawyers to Defense Secretary Hagel dated March 14, 2013 details some of the conditions that led to the hunger strike, including perceived religious desecration of detainees' Qur'ans, confiscation of personal items, and an escalation of the severity of conditions in the camp. Moreover, the lawyers claim the hunger strike began in Camp Six, the largest camp in the prison, and began February 6, 2013.

This letter from Defense Lawyers to Rear Admiral Smith dated March 4, 2013 details the confiscation of detainees' personal items such as books, razors, blankets, and family photos. It also raises the concern that the hunger strike, if permitted to continue, will affect the detainees' access to effective legal counsel. 

Muaz Hamza Ahmad al-Alwi (ISN 028) details here the practice of forced enteral feeding, the conditions in solitary confinement, and the intentions of the hunger strikers. Samir Naji al-Hasan Moqbel (ISN 043) describes the conditions of his detention and forced-feeding in this New York Times editorial.


The data for this chart comes from correspondence with JTF-GTMO collected between October 9, 2013 to November 6, 2013.

Hunger Strike Chart

 

Date Total Hunger Strikers Enteral Feeders Medical Observation
3/15/2013 14 8 0
3/18/2013 21 8 0
3/19/2013 24 8 0
3/20/2013 24 8 0
3/21/2013 25 8 0
3/22/2013 26 8 0
3/23/2013


3/24/2013


3/25/2013 28 10 0
3/26/2013 31 11 0
3/27/2013 31 11 0
3/28/2013 33 11 0
3/29/2013 37 11 0
3/30/2013


3/31/2013


4/1/2013 39 11 0
4/2/2013 40 11 0
4/3/2013 40 11 0
4/4/2013 40 11 0
4/5/2013 41 11 0
4/6/2013 42 11 0
4/7/2013 42 11 0
4/8/2013 42 11 0
4/9/2013 43 11 0
4/10/2013 43 11 0
4/11/2013 43 11 0
4/12/2013 43 11 0
4/13/2013


4/14/2013


4/15/2013


4/16/2013 45 13 0
4/17/2013 52 13 0
4/18/2013


4/19/2013 63 15 0
4/20/2013 77 16 5
4/21/2013 84 16 5
4/22/2013 84 16 6
4/23/2013 84 17 4
4/24/2013 92 17 2
4/25/2013 94 17 3
4/26/2013 97 19 5
4/27/2013 100 20 5
4/28/2013 100 21 5
4/29/2013 100 21 5
4/30/2013 100 21 5
5/1/2013 100 23
5/2/2013 100 23 4
5/3/2013 100 23 5
5/4/2013 100 23
5/5/2013 100 23
5/6/2013 100 23
5/7/2013 100 24
5/8/2013 100 24 1
5/9/2013 100 24 1
5/10/2013 100 27 4
5/11/2013 100 27 3
5/12/2013 100 29 5
5/13/2013 100 29 5
5/14/2013 100 29 5
5/15/2013 100 30 3
5/16/2013 102 30 3
5/17/2013 102 30 1
5/18/2013 103 30 1
5/19/2013 103 30 1
5/20/2013 103 30 1
5/21/2013 103 30 0
5/22/2013 103 31 1
5/23/2013 103 32 2
5/24/2013 103 32 2
5/25/2013 103 34 5
5/26/2013 103 35 6
5/27/2013 103 35 6
5/28/2013 103 35 6
5/29/2013 103 35 7
5/30/2013 103 36 5
5/31/2013 103 36 5
6/1/2013 103 37 4
6/2/2013 103 37 2
6/3/2013 103 37 2
6/4/2013 103 38 2
6/5/2013 103 39 3
6/6/2013 103 41 4
6/7/2013 104 41 4
6/8/2013 104 41 4
6/9/2013 104 41 4
6/10/2013 104 41 4
6/11/2013 104 41 4
6/12/2013 104 43 4
6/13/2013 104 43 4
6/14/2013 104 43 1
6/15/2013 104 44 2
6/16/2013 104 44 2
6/17/2013 104 44 2
6/18/2013 104 44 1
6/19/2013 104 44 1
6/20/2013 104 44 1
6/21/2013 104 44 0
6/22/2013 104 44 0
6/23/2013 104 44 0
6/24/2013 104 44 1
6/25/2013 105 44 0
6/26/2013 105 44 0
6/27/2013 105 44 0
6/28/2013 106 44 0
6/29/2013 106 44 2
6/30/2013 106 44 2
7/1/2013 106 44 2
7/2/2013 106 45 3
7/3/2013 106 45 3
7/4/2013 106 45 3
7/5/2013 106 45 3
7/6/2013 106 45 2
7/7/2013 106 45 2
7/8/2013 106 45 2
7/9/2013 106 45 2
7/10/2013 106 45 3
7/11/2013 104 45 3
7/12/2013 102 45 3
7/13/2013 96 45 3
7/14/2013 81 45 3
7/15/2013 81 45 3
7/16/2013 80 46 3
7/17/2013 78 46 3
7/18/2013 75 46 3
7/19/2013 73 46 3
7/20/2013 70 46 3
7/21/2013 70 46 3
7/22/2013 70 46 3
7/23/2013 70 46 3
7/24/2013 69 45 3
7/25/2013 68 44 3
7/26/2013 68 44 3
7/27/2013 68 44 3
7/28/2013 68 44 3
7/29/2013 68 44 3
7/30/2013 68 44 3
7/31/2013 66 42 3
8/1/2013 61 42 2
8/2/2013 60 42 1
8/3/2013 57 41 0
8/4/2013 57 41 0
8/5/2013 57 41 0
8/6/2013 57 41 1
8/7/2013 55 39 1
8/8/2013 54 39 0
8/9/2013 54 39 0
8/10/2013 53 38 0
8/11/2013 53 38 0
8/12/2013 53 38 0
8/13/2013 52 38 0
8/14/2013 50 37 0
8/15/2013 49 36 0
8/16/2013 48 35 0
8/17/2013 46 35 0
8/18/2013 46 35 0
8/19/2013 46 35 0
8/20/2013 46 35 0
8/21/2013 45 35 1
8/22/2013 44 35 1
8/23/2013 37 33 1
8/24/2013 37 33 0
8/25/2013 37 33 1
8/26/2013 37 33 1
8/27/2013 37 33 1
8/28/2013 36 32 1
8/29/2013 36 32 1
8/30/2013 35 32 1
8/31/2013 35 32 0
9/1/2013 35 32 0
9/2/2013 35 32 0
9/3/2013 35 32 0
9/4/2013 34 31 0
9/5/2013 34 31 0
9/6/2013 30 27 0
9/7/2013 22 20 0
9/8/2013 22 20 0
9/9/2013 22 20 0
9/10/2013 21 18 0
9/11/2013 19 18 0
9/12/2013 19 18 0
9/13/2013 19 18 0
9/14/2013 19 18 0
9/15/2013 19 18 0
9/16/2013 19 18 0
9/17/2013 19 18 0
9/18/2013 19 18 0
9/19/2013 19 18 0
9/20/2013 19 18 0
9/21/2013 19 18 0
9/22/2013 19 18 0
9/23/2013 19 18 0
9/24/2013 19 18 0

 

CSHRA Note

This report was prepared by Nicolai Haddal and released on November 20, 2013. Two weeks later, U.S. Southern Command ordered Guantanamo authorities to stop issuing figures of their hunger-striking prisoners. Navy Cmdr. John Filostrat, chief of the public-relations team at the Guantanamo prison, explained that JTF-GTMO "will not further [the prisoners'] protests by reporting the numbers to the public."

This report has been reviewed by the Guantánamo Blog.

Last revised: December 17, 2013.

 

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