Gitmo Hunger Strike Renamed 'Long-term Non-Religious Fasting'

Image: Gitmo Hunger Strike Renamed 'Long-term Non-Religious Fasting'

Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 06:58 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The Pentagon is now terming the refusal to eat by Muslim inmates at the Guantánamo Bay prison – not as "hunger striking," but as "long term non-religious fasting," the Miami Herald reported.

The semantic change reflects the language employed by Marine Gen. John Kelly at the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the prison. He has referred to the inmate protest as "hunger strike lite," the Herald reported.

A new protocol for handling prisoners who refuse food to protest their incarceration has been rebranded "Medical Management of Detainees with Weight Loss" instead of "Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike."

The military has stopped issuing information on the number of inmates who are refusing to eat. The precise protocol on how much weight loss qualifies an inmate for forced feedings will also not be made public.

Of the 155 prisoners, between 11 and 15 had been refusing food at the end of last year. At the height of the protests, more than 100 inmates had been taking part.

When hunger-striking presents a danger to the inmate's life, medical personnel use forced tube-feeding of liquid nutritional supplements into their stomachs to ensure their nourishment. There is now roughly one nurse or medic for every inmate requiring twice daily forced feeding.

Lawyers for at least one inmate have filed a complaint challenging the force-feeding methods as too extreme, the Herald reported.

In Islam, the faithful are obliged to fast from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan, which begins this year on June 28-29. In addition, some pious Muslims consider it meritorious to fast on additional days throughout the Islamic religious calendar.

Guantánamo authorities are apparently trying to differentiate between genuine Muslim fasts and political protesting by inmates. Some prisoners have been trying to lose weight to qualify as hunger strikers, according to prison authorities.

Most of the Guantánamo inmates are being held indefinitely until countries can be found that would accept them without endangering either U.S. security or their own lives. The Supreme Court has ruled that the prisoners may bring habeas corpus lawsuits specifically regarding the factual basis for their being held as enemy combatants, The New York Times reported.

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