Guantanamo: new scam brewing

September 10, 2005

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MORE than 200 detainees in Guantánamo Bay are in their fifth week of a hunger strike, the Guardian has been told. Statements from prisoners in the camp which were declassified by the US government on Wednesday reveal that the men are starving themselves in protest at the conditions in the camp and at their alleged maltreatment — including desecration of the holy Quran — by American guards.

The statements, written on Aug 11, have just been given to the British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith. They show that prisoners are determined to starve them selves to death. In one, Binyam Mohammed, a former London schoolboy, said: “I do not plan to stop until I either die or we are respected.

“People will definitely die. Bobby Sands petitioned the British government to stop the illegitimate internment of Irishmen without trial. He had the courage of his convictions and he starved himself to death. Nobody should believe for one moment that my brothers here have less courage.” On Tuesday, Mr Stafford Smith, who represents 40 detainees at Guantánamo Bay, eight of whom are British residents, said many men had been starving themselves for more than four weeks and the situation was becoming desperate. He said: “I am worried about the lives of my guys because they are a pretty obstinate lot and they are going to go through with this and I think they are going to end up killing themselves. The American military doesn’t want anyone to know about this.”

He pointed to an American army claim that only 76 prisoners at the base were refusing food, saying that they were attempting to play down what could be a political scandal if a prisoner were to die. The hunger strike is the second since late June. The first ended after the authorities made a number of promises, including better access to books, and bottled drinking water.

The men said that they were tricked into eating again. In his statement, Mr Mohammed described how during the first strike men were placed on intravenous drips after refusing food for 20 days. He said: “The administration promised that if we gave them 10 days, they would bring the prison into compliance with the Geneva conventions. They said this had been approved by Donald Rumsfeld himself in Washington DC. As a result of these promises, we agreed to end the strike on July 28.

“It is now August 11. They have betrayed our trust (again).—Dawn/The Guardian News Service