The U.S. military will no longer disclose how many Guantanamo detainees are participating in hunger strikes, after a summer of protests reached a peak 106 strikers out of 166 total detainees. The Miami Herald was notified that the military would not issue the figures, after nearly a year of tracking the hunger strike momentum.
The Herald reports that the military will “no longer publicly issue the number of detainees who choose not to eat as a matter of protest.” The change coincides with a new public relations director for Guantanamo, who told the paper the disclosure threatens prison operations.
“JTF-Guantánamo allows detainees to peacefully protest but will not further their protests by reporting the numbers to the public,” a spokesman said. “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.”
Gitmo’s motto still reminds us it is “safe, humane, legal, transparent detention.”
The latest figures the military released showed that just over a dozen detainees were on hunger strike. At its peak, 42 of the 106 prisoners fasting were on a list to be force-fed through tubes. Lawmakers and the medical community questioned whether force-feeding consists of torture, as a painful process where a person is restrained with a tube running down his or her throat.
Detainee lawyers said at the height of the hunger strike this summer that it would end if the military released and transferred prisoners. There has been recent progress on this front: The administration has announced that it would again transfer a fewlow-level detainees to their home countries, a process that stalled due to tight congressional restrictions.
The United States has spent more than $5 billion housing terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, at the further expense, military leaders and experts say, of American security. Congress could save additional billions over the next 10 years if it finally allowed transfers to existing U.S. prisons and released 84 detainees already cleared to leave.