US Military Goes Silent on Guantanamo Hunger Strike Numbers


Credit: US Navy

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp has changed its protocol. Undeterred by criticism about transparency and humans rights violations, officials at the camp will no longer disclose information about detainees on hunger strike.

Despite bearing the motto "safe, humane, legal, transparent detention," Guantanamo Bay "officials have determined that it is no longer in their interest to publicly disclose the information," the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

Until then, the camp released daily information about the detainees, many of whom have never been charged for crimes and are being held indefinitely without trial. Others, as Reason's J.D. Tuccille points out, remain at the facility despite being cleared for release years ago.

The AP points out the significance of the military's new silence on the matter, as hunger strikes have acted as an "unofficial barometer of conditions at the secretive military outpost" and the "number of hunger strikers" can be seen "as a measure of discontent at the prison."

"Guantanamo allows detainees to peacefully protest, but will not further their protests by reporting the numbers to the public. The release of this information serves no operational purpose and detracts from the more important issues, which are the welfare of detainees and the safety and security of our troops," stated Navy Cmdr. John Filostrat, who oversees the camp's public relations.

Carol Rosenberg, who covered the number of hunger strikers daily for the Miami Herald, reports that he asked Filostrat to "elaborate on how the daily report interfered with troop security and detainee welfare," but Filostrat refused.

The most recent (and likely final) report stated that 15 prisoners were on strike. All of them were in poor enough condition that they had to be force-fed, a process that has been considered a form of torture.

Earlier this year, in a mass protest the hunger strike reached a peak participation rate of 106 of the 166 being held at the facility. The numbers dropped and officials declared the strike over in July. This is not exactly accurate, though, as there was never a day without multiple prisoners on strike.