Following news last night that two Guantanamo prisoners have officially dropped from the list of hunger strikers there, the U.S. military wants you to know that the vast majority of the striking detainees — 99 of 102 — have eaten at least one meal in the past 24 hours. Does that mean the hunger strike is basically over? Not just yet.
It takes more than one meal for the military to take a detainee off the list. Officials need to see "sustained" eating over a period of several days before they'll consider a detainee's hunger strike over — that amounts to 1,500 calories a day, for seven days, according to the Miami Herald. A doctor can also make a case-by-case determination on whether an eating hunger striker is getting enough food or not. Of course, 45 of the 102 prisoners still on strike are consuming something, in the form of force-fed liquid nutritional supplements. Those supplements are delivered to the inmate while he is restrained: Sometimes, that's through a tube entering the inmate through the nostril and winding its way into his stomach. Some detainees may choose to drink a can of Ensure instead of undergoing a tube feeding. Both are categorized as a force feeding procedure. When officials say that prisoners have eaten a meal, this doesn't count.
The hunger strike at Guantanamo became more complicated (for officials, anyway) with the approach of Ramadan, a month-long Islamic holiday that requires adherents to fast, from both food and water, until nightfall each day. Ramadan began on July 8. For some prisoners, that's meant a schedule change for their force-feedings — they're now night-time ordeals. For others, according to Jason Leopold, that's meant a choice: prisoners can either continue to strike, or return to a more desireable communal living situation:
GTMO officials returned some prisoners to communal living. Those prisoners must agree to quit hunger strike. Abt 100 in communal living now— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) July 12, 2013
Communal living has been a huge sticking point with detainees for the past few months: detainees who had previously been living communally were forced into individual cell blocks last April, a move that officials say was prompted when the detainees covered most of the cameras monitoring their space.
Fifty-six of the 86 inmates cleared for release form Guantanamo can't go home, because they're from Yemen. And even though Obama announced that he'd lift a restriction barring their release to the country in May, no one has made moves to actually begin that process, yet. Detainees are desperate to see some movement on their cases, some of which have been in a state of limbo for years. Other inmates — there are 166 in total — allege that the guards there have disrespected their Quran, and taken personal items from them.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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