WASHINGTON - The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday expressed opposition to the force-feeding of prisoners staging a mass hunger strike at the Guantanamo prison camp and said he urged US President Barack Obama to do more to resolve the "untenable" legal plight of inmates held there.
ICRC president Peter Maurer made his case in talks with Obama and other top US officials in Washington this week while a team from the Geneva-based group monitored the hunger strike by dozens of detainees at the US Naval Base in Cuba. Many have been held for more than a decade without charge or trial.The US military says 43 of the 166 prisoners have refused food, while defense lawyers estimate that 100 to 130 inmates have joined in. Eleven have lost so much weight that they have been strapped down and force-fed liquid nutrients through tubes inserted into their noses.
The protest has cast a spotlight on the internationally condemned facility, which was opened by Obama's Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, to hold foreign terrorism suspects after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Obama, confronted by steep legal and political obstacles, failed to keep his promise to close the prison within a year of taking office in 2009. The White House insisted on Thursday he remained committed to shutting it but offered no new path to doing so in his second term.