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Department of Defense Misled Senators About Inhumane Prison Conditions as Hunger Strike Occurred

Center for Constitutional Rights
Guantanamo Legal Update
August 25, 2005

At the same time that the Department of Defense (DOD) was conducting misleading “show tours” of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in July for U.S. Senators, up to 200 prisoners were actively engaged in a hunger strike to protest their inhumane treatment. From early July through July 25, 2005, the hunger strike became so severe that the DOD was forced to place approximately 50 of these men on IV’s. During the tours, Senators were prohibited from speaking directly to any detainees.

After observing only detainees in Camp Four, the Senators left with an inaccurate view of the detainees’ conditions. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), for example, stated on July 11, 2005, that “everything we saw is consistent with what we have learned from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s ongoing oversight of operations at GTMO.” And in describing the treatment of the prisoners, he declared that “it is really hard for me to imagine any better treatment that this country could provide for those kind of people. They are treated humanely and respectfully.” (, July 11 audio link)

Yet, the prisoners were protesting their current lack of basic human rights and dignity:

As Jarallah Al-Marri, a prisoner from Qatar, stated, “I participated in a hunger strike for 17 days to protest the inhumane conditions and religious persecution I and hundreds of other prisoners have been subject to at Guantánamo.”

Further details of the seriousness of the prisoners’ claims are also emerging. Al-Marri, for example, was hospitalized as a result of his hunger strike and a deteriorating heart condition, and placed on an IV. He told his attorney, Jonathan Hafetz of Gibbons Del Deo Dolan Griffinger & Vecchione, that the government had a nurse make sexual advances towards him while he was lying in his hospital bed in a vain attempt to convince him to give up his hunger strike. Al-Marri has been in solitary confinement for over 16 months and today often goes as long as 3 weeks without being allowed outside his cell for recreation. The lights in Al-Marri's cell remain on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and he has been denied adequate bedding and clothing. Al-Marri is able to sleep only 2 hours a night, and his physical and mental health have deteriorated significantly.

Al-Marri’s attorney, Jonathan Hafetz of Gibbons Del Deo Dolan Griffinger & Vecchione stated, “Al-Marri has been denied his most basic human rights and he courageously took a stand against his continued mistreatment.”

Despite the DOD’s denials of mistreatment, military officials have since acknowledged the validity of the prisoners’ claims of a lack of basic human necessities by, for example, agreeing to provide prisoners with clean bottled water. Yet many of the detainees’ concerns have gone unaddressed and the DOD has refused to provide timely and accurate public information about the conditions at Guantánamo.

“The DOD’s close monitoring of the hunger strikes makes clear that the military was fully aware of the severity and nature of the prisoners’ allegations at the time of the Senators’ tours. The inescapable conclusion is that the DOD actively sought to cover-up their mistreatment of prisoners. The DOD was forced to respond to the hunger strike due to the prisoners’ courage and their lawyers’ efforts to make their treatment public,” stated Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez.

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