WASHINGTON -- Military authorities in Guantanamo are now refusing to say how many detainees are participating in a long-term hunger strike that began early this year.
As first reported by The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg, authorities at the naval base are now declining to respond to inquiries about the number of hunger strikers, which stood at 15 as of Monday, down from over 100 this summer. Military personnel stopped proactively sending out the daily hunger strike count back in September, saying the massive strike was largely over, but were still responding to individual inquiries until this week.
"Our policy at JTF-Guantanamo is to no longer publicly issue the number of detainees who choose not to eat as a matter of protest," said Cmdr. John Filostrat, the director of public affairs for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, the military task force that operates the base's detention facilities.
"JTF-Guantanamo allows detainees to peacefully protest, but will not further their protests by reporting the numbers to the public," he continued. "The release of this information serves no operational purpose and detracts from the more important issues, which are the welfare of detainees and the safety and security of our troops."
The Miami Herald reported that the decision to stop releasing hunger strike numbers was made by Marine Gen. John Kelly, the Southcom commander who oversees most of the military's operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
President Barack Obama, who has said in the past that his is "most transparent administration in history," is still working to close the prison at Guantanamo. He recently won a significant victory when the Senate passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act that rolled back restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees.
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