Guantanamo prisoners battle guards, Sunday Independent 140413
Months of increased tension at the Guantanamo Bay prison have boiled over into a clash between guards and detainees as the military closed a communal section of the jail and moved inmates into single cells.
Prisoners fought guards with makeshift weapons that included broomsticks when troops arrived to move them out of a communal wing of the section of the prison known as Camp 6, said navy captain Robert Durand, a military spokesman. Guards responded by firing four "less-than-lethal rounds", he said.
There were no serious injuries from the rounds, which included a modified shotgun shell that fires small rubber pellets as well as a type of bean-bag projectile, said army colonel Greg Julian, a spokesman for Miami-based US Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo. "I know for sure that one detainee was hit but the injuries were minor, just some bruises," he said.
The confrontation came a day after a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross finished a three-week visit to Guantanamo to meet prisoners and assess conditions. "The ICRC continues to follow the current tensions and the hunger strike at Guantanamo very closely and with concern," spokesman Simon Schorno said. "If necessary, an ICRC team will in coming days return to Guantanamo to assess the situation of the detainees on hunger strike in view of this latest development."
Camp 6 had previously been a section reserved for detainees who followed prison rules. In exchange they were allowed to share meals and pray together, have nearly round-the-clock recreation time as well as access to satellite TV, computer games and classes. It held a majority of the 166 prisoners at the base before the hunger strike began, but the military said the number was down to fewer than 70 yesterday.
The guards moved the hunger strikers and all other detainees at the communal section to single cells in a separate wing of Camp 6 at around 5am. Prisoners would eventually be allowed back into communal living conditions if they followed rules, while hunger strikers would be held in single cells, Capt Durand said. "For now, housing detainees in individual cells will enable us to observe them more closely," he said.
Tensions had been high at the prison for months. Lawyers for prisoners said a hunger strike began on February 6 in protest over their indefinite confinement and what the men believed were tighter restrictions and intrusive searches of their Korans for contraband.
Prisoners offered to give up the Muslim holy book that each one is issued by the government, but officials refused, considering it a tacit admission of wrongdoing. "This is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing," Carlos Warner, a government public defender in Ohio, said of the decision to move prisoners into single cells instead of negotiating an end to the strike. "The military is escalating the conflict."
The military said 43 prisoners were classified as hunger strikers under a definition that includes missing nine consecutive meals. Lawyers for prisoners have insisted the strike is much more widespread and say almost all of the men are refusing to eat. Officials were also concerned that some men were surreptitiously starving themselves to avoid being classified as hunger strikers and force fed. The military said it was conducting individual assessments of all the prisoners.