Guantanamo detainees are starving to death

Clive Stafford Smith
Founder of Reprieve

A quick update, with more to follow soon…

Of the 41 prisoners still held in Guantanamo, 26 are what are called “forever prisoners” – low value (to the US) but under Trump’s edict, never to be released. At least four have been on hunger strike since 2013, and are now (thanks to another change) edging close to death.

Two of the four are our clients, Ahmed Rabbani and Khalid Qassim. Ahmed, for example, has been detained without charge since September 2002 and on hunger strike since 2013. He reportedly weighs just 6.7 stone (95 pounds), and I know from visiting him that he has long been suffering internal bleeding.

“I don’t want to die,” Ahmed told me, “but after four years of peaceful protest I am hardly going to stop because they tell me to. I will definitely stop when President Trump frees the prisoners who have been cleared, and allows everyone else a fair trial.”

Ahmed is trapped in Guantanamo without charge or trial. For years he patiently waited for justice, but none came. By 2013 he’d had enough. He joined those peacefully protesting their indefinite detention in the only way they can – by refusing food.

The hunger strikers were brutally force fed by the Gitmo guards for four years – a procedure made gratuitously painful under an earlier edict by General Craddock. But that stopped as of September 20th  – a new policy brought in by President Trump.

Ahmed and Khalid have now gone without food since September 20th.

Urgent action is needed from the authorities at Guantánamo Bay, beginning with independent medical evaluations and medical support for the strikers.

But, as Ahmed points out, President Trump can end the hunger strike by ending 15 years of abuse and injustice at Guantanamo Bay. He can release the prisoners or give them fair trials. Better yet, he can close Guantanamo for good.

I fear it may be time for me to go on another sympathy strike – as I (and many others did) some years back to help Shaker Aamer. I hope to persuade Ahmed and Khalid that if we take up the torch for them, they can take up eating and save their lives, without giving up their principles.

It is very urgent. More to come soon.