Defense Department Needs to Change Policy on Guantanamo Hunger Strikes, Groups Say

Along with a coalition of civil liberties, human rights, and religious organizations, TCP is calling on Defense Secretary Hagel to end the secrecy regarding how military personnel are handling hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay.

In an April 10 letter, the groups urged Hagel “to provide the public with the information that it needs – and deserves – to understand what is happening [at Guantanamo] and to hold its government accountable.”  Specifically, the groups want Hagel to order detention facility commanders to provide basic information on the numbers of detainees on hunger strike – including how many have been approved for force-feeding and how many have been hospitalized – and to make public a fully unredacted copy of the current hunger strike management protocol.

The groups also raised concerns with a recently released Defense Department document titled “Medical Management of Detainees with Weight Loss.”  Though heavily redacted, the document appears to contain the governing protocol for managing hunger strikes at Guantanamo.  The groups warned that “the disclosed portions of the protocol – coupled with recent allegations that detainees continue to be force-fed abusively – suggest that serious violations of medical ethics, medical care standards and human rights obligations could be commonplace.”

Late last year, the Defense Department revised the protocols the military follows for managing hunger strikes at Guantánamo, but the agency refused to disclose the changes.  Around the same time, US Southern Command stopped providing the public with information on the number of detainees engaged in hunger strikes. A similar coalition of groups wrote to Hagel last December about the need for far greater transparency. Unfortunately, basic information about detainees currently on hunger strike at Guantánamo, including critical details about how the military manages them, remains secret.

In a report released last April, TCP’s bipartisan blue-ribbon Task Force on Detainee Treatment called for substantial revisions in medical care for the prisoners remaining at Guantanamo.

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