IN THE CAMPS

Red Cross in Guantánamo a week early to check on hunger strikers

 

crosenberg@miamiherald.com

Two delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of them a physician, are at Guantánamo this week in an accelerated trip moved up from next month to check out the ongoing hunger strike at the war on terror prison.

Red Cross spokesman Simon Schorno said Tuesday morning that the regularly schedule two-week mission was meant to start April 1.

“However, in an effort to better understand current tensions and the ongoing hunger strike, we have decided to start this visit one week earlier,” said Schorno.

As of Tuesday, the Pentagon considered 31 out of 166 captives to meet the minimum criteria to be considered hunger strikers. Eleven of them were being fed nutritional supplements mostly fed through tubes snaked up a captive’s nose and into his stomach.

Of the 11, three were hospitalized, receiving both intravenous drips for rehydration as well as the tube feedings, Navy Capt. Robert Durand said Monday from Guantanamo.

The Red Cross spokesman attributed tensions in the camp to ongoing uncertainty about the status of the vast majority of detainees. Only six are facing trials by military commission, in the September 11 attacks and the suicide bombing of the USS Cole warship off Yemen in October 2000. About 90 of the captives have been cleared for release by an Obama-era task force but remain at the detention center due to a combination of Congressional restrictions and political instability in their own countries that have stalled repatriations.

In addition, different agencies of the federal government are still working on setting up parole-style hearings called Periodic Review Boards.

The Pentagon and lawyers for the prisoners dispute how widespread the hunger strike is and when it started.

The Red Cross is unlikely to help resolve the disagreement because of a policy that keeps confidential conversations with the host country it visits, in this case the United States, which controls the corner of southeast Cuba where the prison is located.

“The ICRC believes past and current tensions at Guantanamo to be the direct result of the uncertainty faced by detainees,” Schorno said in a statement.

“It is the longstanding position of the ICRC that persons detained for imperative reasons of security must be held within a valid legal framework. It remains the opinion of the ICRC that appropriate, fair and transparent procedural safeguards will help alleviate the mental and emotional strain the detainees experience given the prevailing uncertainty about their fate.”

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

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