Military and civilian lawyers representing terror suspect detainees at Guantanamo Bay sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to improve conditions as authorities there crack down on detainees engaging in a hunger strike.
“While the hunger strike continues to increase in scope and severity, there is much you can do, right now, to improve the quality of life for all the prisoners,” the lawyers said in their letter to Hagel, Reuters reports.
Conditions at the camp have reportedly deteriorated since detainees started their hunger strike in February. Now, the military says 103 detainees are refusing food and 31 are being force-fed. Gitmo authorities have restricted communal living and taken away amenities in a effort to break the hunger strike.
“[I]t’s very clear that individual isolation is to break the hunger strike,” said Army Captain Jason Wright in a recent interview with ThinkProgress, adding that moving the detainees back to communal living might help end the mass fast. Indeed, Guantanamo’s Standard Operating Procedure on dealing with hunger strikes says “in the event of a mass strike, isolating hunger striking patients from each other is vital to prevent them from achieving solidarity.”
While Obama is expected to announce in a major national security speech on Thursday that his administration will begin transferring some detainees out of Gitmo, lawmakers are also increasing pressure to close the prison. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Obama urging him to appoint a special envoy to close Gitmo, and Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) is circulating a letter for signatures demanding Guantanamo’s closure.