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Red Cross arrives at Guantánamo as hunger strike hits 100 mark

  • The Miami Herald
  • Published Saturday, April 27, 2013, at 11:13 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, April 28, 2013, at 7:48 a.m.

International Red Cross delegates began inspecting conditions at the Guantánamo prison camps on Saturday, as the U.S. military said the number of hunger strikers had reached 100.

One-fifth of the hunger strikers were being force fed nutritional supplements through feeding tubes, said Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, a prison camps spokesman.

Five of the 20 men being force fed were hospitalized, although none “currently have any life-threatening conditions,” House said by email from the remote base in southeast Cuba.

In Washington, International Red Cross spokesman Simon Schorno said five delegates arrived Friday at the Navy base for a “an ad-hoc assessment visit” now that the majority of captives are in single-cell lockdown.

One delegate is a physician, he said, declining to identify the nationalities of any of the team members.

It’s the organization’s 93rd visit since the prison camps opened in 2002. Schorno said the goal was “to assess the immediate aftermath of that transfer and to monitor the current conditions of detention and treatment there,” in light of the lockdown.

“As always, the ICRC will address its findings confidentially and with U.S. authorities only,” he said.

The Red Cross arrived as attorneys disclosed the identities of some of the men being force fed at Guantánamo, revealing that at least four of the captives were designated for release years ago.

Prison officials have refused to name any of the hunger strikers. But the Justice Department has been notifying the attorneys of prisoners who have become so malnourished that they now require the tube feedings.

The prison camps in Cuba have been wracked by hunger strikes from the earliest days. The most sustained, widespread known hunger strike took place in 2005 when, according to House, “we had a detainee population of 575 detainees with 142 detainees choosing to hunger strike in July.”

On average in July of 2005, he said, 30 detainees were “being enteral fed” -- the Guantánamo term for the process of snaking a tube up a captive’s nose, down the back of his throat and into his stomach before pumping in a can of nutritional supplement.

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