The growing hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay has drawn the attention of everyone who cares for justice and decency to the inexcusable indefinite detention without charge of prisoners who have been held there for years. Perhaps now something will be done.
As I understand it, the reason why President Obama’s pledge to close the facility by 2010 has failed has been due to the refusal of politicians in Congress to agree to the transfer to US soil and trial there of many of the detainees, and because other countries in the world with an interest would not take them or might mistreat them. The result has been the incarceration of 166 men, some 100 of whom have been cleared for release and so who, presumably, are innocent, in a jail notorious for its isolation and harsh conditions. With no end in sight to an intolerable situation, it is unsurprising that violence erupted earlier this month and that two thirds of the inmates have resorted to a hunger strike in desperation.
As medical staff are shipped in to care for men who have been starving since February, it is likely that force-feeding is taking place to prevent any of them from dying – perhaps out of compassion, perhaps also with an awareness of the bad publicity it would bring. Meanwhile, as the crisis grows, Obama has renewed his call for Guantanamo to close, but how this can be achieved when previous attempts have failed is a mystery. After the Boston bombings, Americans are likely to be even more averse to having potential terrorists living among them now, albeit in maximum security prisons.
The welfare of these prisoners, so many of whom should never have been detained, must come first. They have families somewhere, they have feelings, and they have human rights. Let those who deserve it face trial and justice, let those who do not have their freedom, somehow. America is the land of the free, is it not? And others could help too, if they so choose.