A Defense Department official said, absent an order from Obama, the forced-feeding policy would not change. Separately, the military said it eased conditions for some after nearly 90 days of lockdown to test the prisoners’ behavior.
In April, troops raided the communal prison and imposed the sweeping lockdown, saying the once-cooperative captives had defied their guards. They systematically refused to allow guards to deliver food inside the communal pods and covered up their surveillance cameras, prompting fears by the U.S. military that some were planning suicide by starvation.
It was not possible to independently confirm the military’s claim that the captives were eating. A Miami Herald reporter was last were allowed to visit the prison in April, within days of the lockdown when the hunger strike and forced-feedings were on the rise.
Detainees have typically not met with their attorneys during Ramadan. Lawyer Carlos Warner said he spoke this week with Yemeni captive Idris Idris, in his 30s, and he was “still hunger striking, being tube fed and suffering.”
Plus, Warner noted, the military itself reported that 45 captives were on its forced-feed list.
“The military’s numbers are not credible and are unreliable,” said Warner, a federal defender in Ohio. But, he said, if the military truly was restoring “amenities” and easing conditions, the numbers could go down. “We still believe approximately 130 men are hunger striking with a majority being tube fed each day.”
Military commanders attributed the widespread hunger strike to a sense of despair at being at Guantánamo years after President Barack Obama pledged to close the Navy base prison. Four years ago, a federal task force approved transfer of 86 of the 166 captives, many home, some with conditions. But Congress blocked those moves. Defense lawyers said the detainees complained that the guards disrespected their Quran and seized personal items during a Feb 6-7 raid on the communal prison.
Since the hunger strike, Durand noted, Obama mentioned the captives twice in public speeches and dispatched a special envoy from the State Department to tour the camps July 2. “They’re not declaring victory and we’re not declaring victory, either,” said Durand, “but we’re just encouraged by the fact that we have good behavior in the camps.”