US: Guantanamo Bay Hunger Strike New Call on UK Government to act to save lives

There are at least six UK residents among an estimated 210 of the camp's 500 detainees currently on hunger strike in protest at their continuing detention without charge or trial at the military prison.

Amnesty International and Reprieve have today written to Tony Blair seeking assurances that the government will make an immediate assessment of the number of British residents on hunger strike, ascertain the gravity of their medical condition, and obtain from the US authorities a guarantee that an independent body is given access to all UK residents on hunger strike.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

"Reports emerging from the camp concerning the treatment of hunger strikers are disturbing and just underline the need for an immediate resolution of Guantanamo Bay.

"The camp is still closed to Amnesty International and the secrecy surrounding Guantanamo makes the hunger strike a frightening phenomenon. We just don’t know what is happening, to whom and with what degree of consent?

"While those on hunger strike have made a personal decision it is notable that their demands - for a fair trial and legal representation - are precisely those required under international law.

"We need to see the UK government intervening to prevent deaths and injuries and to see that all detainees - including at least six UK residents on hunger strike - are either properly tried or immediately released in accordance with international human rights law.

Reprieve's Legal Director, Clive Stafford Smith, who is acting on behalf of some 40 Guantanamo Bay detainees, said:

"I have been to Guantánamo Bay. Conditions there at the best of times are disturbing. But to imagine my clients being held in four point restraints with a tube forced down their noses, after all that they have been through just makes me sick. All these prisoners are asking for is that the US military abide by the Geneva Conventions.

They are being forced to risk their lives to persuade a rogue nation to comply with international law. I wrote to Jack Straw on September 12, on behalf of the British residents, asking to know what had been done but I have not heard back; meanwhile with each day that passes my clients’ health is deteriorating. We cannot wait any longer."

Earlier today disturbing accounts of force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay were heard at a press conference held by Amnesty International and Reprieve. These included accounts of force-feeding of prisoners who had been forcibly restrained (photographs of a reconstruction of these alleged techniques are available).

The conference also heard a direct plea to the UK government from Amani Deghayes, the sister of a UK resident Omar Degayes, who is imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

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