Prisoners taking part in a growing hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay complained that their handlers have denied them drinking water and kept their cells at “extremely frigid” temperatures.
US attorneys claimed Thursday that the allegations were “false,” as they urged the US District Court in Washington to dismiss the emergency motion filed by Yemeni prisoner Musaab al-Madhwani.
Madhwani, who has been held at the US naval base in southern Cuba for 11 years, is demanding “emergency humanitarian relief” in the form of drinking water and clothing to keep warm, according to his complaint.
The detainee is only drinking water and not eating food as he is participating in a hunger strike that began seven weeks ago after a routine inspection during which prisoners claimed guards had mishandled their Korans.
The US military said the Korans were in no way desecrated. Military officials said only Muslim translators at the camp handle copies of Islam’s holy book.
Thirty-one detainees out of a total population of 166 are participating in the hunger strike, believed to be unprecedented in its scope and duration. Among the hunger strikers, 11 are being fed using a feeding tube.
Prison authorities have denied Madhwani and other detainees access to potable water for at least three days, according to his complaint.
“When Musaab and his fellow prisoners requested drinking water, the guards told them to drink from the faucets,” it added, noting that tap water at Guantanamo is not potable and residents there only drink bottled water.
“The lack of potable water has already caused some prisoners kidney, urinary and stomach problems.”
In addition, for the 10 days that preceded the filing, “prison authorities have maintained the air conditioning at extremely frigid temperatures, much colder than ever before,” Madhwani’s lawyers wrote to the court.
“The cotton clothing provided to Musaab is insufficient to keep him warm under these super-cooled conditions.”
The lawyers express concern that the lack of potable water could cause the prisoner “serious and potentially life-threatening physical harm,” and accused the jailers of imposing the harsher conditions “in an attempt to break the hunger strike.”
“My clients are resolved to hunger strike until the military meets their demands, and are willing to risk death to achieve their goals,” said David Remes, who represents 15 Guantanamo detainees currently on hunger strike.
“The military should not force-feed them to keep them alive or take other steps to pressure them into ending their hunger strike, such as by freezing them in their cells, withholding water or placing them in solitary confinement.”
But prison spokesman Captain Robert Durand countered that cells are kept at a “comfortable temperature” and that detainees have cases of bottled drinking water within the cell blocks — “the same water I make my coffee with and the same water we use to cook meals for troops and detainees.”