Guantánamo: 30 of the 100 hunger strikers now being tube-fed

Guantánamo prison staff members were tube-feeding 30 of the 100 hunger-striking captives on Wednesday, the detention center said, reporting an all-time high last reached in 2005.

Three of the captives were being treated in the hospital, said Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, a prison spokesman, although none “currently have any life-threatening conditions.”

The Pentagon’s Southern Command headquarters had earlier sent medical reinforcements to the remote prison camps, to increase the military deployment of Navy doctors, nurses and corpsmen to about 140 to care for the 166 captives at the sprawling detention center in southeast Cuba.

House disclosed the hunger strike figure a day after guards declared a medical emergency in the maximum security prison during a tour of the facilities by journalists representing Al Jazeera, CNN and Time magazine. A prisoner appeared unconscious to guards, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, the prison’s public affairs officer, so soldiers declared a “Code Yellow,” Guantánamo’s term for a medical emergency.

“Nobody was hurt,” said Durand, noting that there were four Code Yellows declared on Tuesday. “Nothing serious happened” in any of them.

Essentially, he said, hunger strikers are “being lethargic and not having energy.” He attributed Tuesday’s episodes to “a consequence of hunger striking.”

During a visit to the maximum-security lockup in March, Durand said that detainees appeared to faint more frequently while visiting delegations or reporters were at the prison. But he said Wednesday that it was unclear whether Tuesday’s episode during the media visit was “coincidental, opportunistic or legitimate.”

Durand also said by telephone Wednesday that the prison was not at risk of running short of nutritional supplements. The military had earlier in the hunger strike done a stock check and ordered additional supplies.

The prison camps in Cuba have been wracked by hunger strikes almost from the start. The Pentagon set up the offshore detention center in January 2002.

But the most widespread known hunger strike took place in 2005 when, according to records House consulted last month, “we had a detainee population of 575 detainees with 142 detainees choosing to hunger strike in July.”

On average, he said, 30 detainees were “being enteral fed,” the Guantánamo term for the process of snaking a tube up a captive’s nose, down the back of his throat and into his stomach before pumping in a can of nutritional supplement.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

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