Sgt. James Boudreau oversees Camp 6, where hunger-striking prisoners are not permitted to remain.Jason Leopold
The public affairs director took issue with critics who say the policy change contradicts transparency promises by Guantanamo officials and the president. “Everyone is saying, ‘You’re trying to shut down reporting on this,'” he said. “That’s not true. We’re not here to drive the message. We’re not trying to drive the agenda. We’re here to show you the facility.”
Filostrat would neither confirm nor deny a claim by British prisoner Shaker Aamer, who said last week that the “Guantanamo hunger strike is back on” and that there are now 29 prisoners protesting, of whom 19 are being force-fed. Aamer made the claims during a phone call with his attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, director of the U.K.-based human rights charity Reprieve. Stafford Smith gave Al Jazeera a copy of his notes from his Dec. 5 phone call with Aamer. The last official tally, released on Dec. 2, was that 15 hunger strikers remained — all of them force-fed.
“We’re not going to run this place through the media,” Filostrat said. “We’re not here to hide anything. In the end, when this is all said and done, the numbers, whatever they may be, will come out or they won’t come out. We’re just not going to report it.”
During a tour of the two main detention camps Tuesday afternoon, Al Jazeera observed a communal block in Camp 6 where five prisoners interacted with each other, watched television and picked through meals served earlier in the day.
“At 6, we have no hunger strikers whatsoever,” said Sgt. James Boudreau, a guard in charge in that section of the facility.
But Boudreau did confirm that in recent weeks some prisoners have announced they were launching a hunger strike and were moved to Camp 5, which houses noncompliant prisoners, isolated in single cells. Prisoners are not permitted to remain in Camp 6 if they refuse to eat.
“When they are not getting exactly what they want when they want it, they’ll announce they’re hunger-striking,” said Boudreau. “But it hasn’t been big numbers. I haven’t noticed any kind of elevation or spike.”
Aamer, who hasn’t eaten solid food for three weeks, told Stafford Smith that “five new strikers” were transferred to Camp 5 last week.
While declining to comment on the most recent number of hunger strikers, Filostrat said there are about a dozen hard-core strikers who refuse to eat on a regular basis.
“That probably won’t change,” he said. “They’ll continue to find ways to draw attention to themselves, and we’ll continue to monitor it.”