President Obama’s spokesman said the White House is closely watching a hunger strike by terrorist detainees at the facility at Guantanamo Bay and remains committed to closing the prison.
“I can tell you that the White House and the president’s team is closely monitoring the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay,” spokesman Joshua Earnest said. “…I can tell you that the administration remains committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.”
“Given that the legislation that Congress has put in place, it’s clear that it’s going to take some time to fully close the facility,” he added.
The number of detainees on hunger strike at the U.S. prison has grown in recent days, and the Red Cross has moved up a visit to the prison to assess the situation. The Miami Herald reported that 31 out of 166 captives are considered hunger strikers, up from 28 on Monday.
The hunger strike reportedly began in February when guards began to search through prisoners’ personal belongings, including their Qurans.
But attorneys representing the Guantanamo detainees say the strike is also fueled by a sense of hopelessness about being held for so long without any hope of a resolution for many of those held there.
Mr. Earnest referred questions on the motivations behind the hunger strike to the Defense Department.
Amnesty International issued a statement Wednesday expressing its deep concern with the situation faced by the detainees, as well as frustration with Mr. Obama’s inability to follow through on his pledge to shutter the site and relocate the detainees held there.
“Talk is cheap,” said Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights Campaign. “It’s time for President Obama to take real action to fulfill his Guantanamo promise. He would work with Congress to ensure that the restrictions on Guantanamo transfers are not renewed this year.”