Detainee Hunger Strike Prompts Request for Health Records Access

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Attorneys for several detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, asked a federal judge for immediate access to their clients' medical records, saying they fear an eight-week-long hunger strike is growing more serious, according to court papers declassified yesterday.

Lawyers for a group of 17 Yemeni detainees told the court yesterday that, during an early August visit, some captives looked "gaunt and unwell" and that they fear their conditions have deteriorated. They complained to U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. that the military and the Justice Department have refused to tell them or other lawyers about their clients' health status.

"Many participants . . . have stated their expectation of death and a growing number of detainees are now hospitalized and in grave condition," attorneys David Remes and Marc Falkoff wrote.

Military officials disputed that description, saying the number of detainees participating in the strike has recently declined. As of Sept. 12, the military said, 128 detainees were involved in the strike, which the Pentagon defines as refusing food or water for at least three consecutive days.

At that time, 18 were hospitalized, and were either having intravenous fluids forcibly administered or were being force-fed through nasal-gastric tubes. Yesterday, a military spokesman said, just 45 detainees had been refusing food or water for three or more days.

In a Sept. 12 e-mail, Justice Department attorney Andrew Warden wrote that the government is "not in a position" to provide health updates on hundreds of detainees.

Detainees on hunger strike are protesting what they describe as beatings at the prison and their indefinite detentions, their attorneys have said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company