Guards, detainees clash at Guantanamo Bay
KABUL (PAN): Protesting detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Saturday clashed with military guards after they were moved from communal situation into single cells, some forcibly, to break a hunger strike at one of the facility’s camps.
Media reports quoted a spokesman for the military as saying that Saturday’s action was taken “to ensure that detainees are not being coerced by other detainees to participate in the hunger strike.”
The effort to reestablish control at Camp 6 where detainees have covered cameras and windows to prevent observation by guards was prompted by fears that the risk to the health and the security of the detainees “had reached an unacceptable level, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
He said the detainees may continue to hunger strike, but medical staff will now be able to properly monitor their conditions..
Durand said some detainees “resisted with improvised weapons, and in response, four less-than-lethal rounds were fired.”
Some detainees used “batons created in advance” as well as broomsticks and mop handles to try to resist the forced return to single-man cells when the guard force entered the communal areas, according to Durand.
He said the operation took several hours and that some guards and detainees were receiving medical care, but he didn’t specify the nature of the injuries.
“If and when the detainees demonstrate a willingness to comply with safety rules, the privilege of communal living may be reinstated,” Durand said.
An official in Washington said the military authorities hoped isolating detainees could break the hunger strike.
The hunger strike began in early February after detainees said the guard force initiated new and aggressive sweeps of the cells that they alleged included inappropriate searches of the detainees’ holy books. The military acknowledged that the books were searched for contraband, but said they were handled only by interpreters, most of whom are Muslim, not the guard force.
Lawyers for the detainees, the military and the International Committee for the Red Cross agree that the hunger strike is also born of a deeper frustration that the Obama administration has abandoned any real effort to close the facility.
There are 166 detainees at Guantanamo, and dozens of them were cleared for transfer out of Guantanamo Bay by an interagency review panel. The Obama administration has not yet started another promised review process. And it closed the office in the State Department that was charged with getting the cleared detainees home or resettled in third countries.
The administration has said that Congress has blocked its ability to act, but lawyers and human rights groups say that the administration could still move out some detainees. They charge that the White House is unwilling to fight for its 2009 executive order to close the facility in Cuba.
The Red Cross said in a statement Saturday that it “continues to follow the current tensions and the hunger strike at Guantanamo very closely and with concern.”
Before the hunger strike, up to 120 detainees lived in Camp 6 where cells were kept open and detainees could watch television, eat and use recreation areas together.
Counsel for the detainees and the military have clashed over the scale of the protest. The detainees’ lawyers said almost everyone in Camp 6 and Camp 5, a single-cell facility, were participating. The military said the hunger strike had grown since February and by Friday 43 detainees were consistently refusing food, 11 of whom were being force fed.
Political analyst Mohammad Hassan Haqyar said human rights groups in the US had not been able to put pressure on the government to shut the notorious jail. He said the health condition of some detainees on hunger strike had deteriorated, but US rights activists were silent.
The US has not yet released those cleared by courts, he said, adding indefinite detention without trial was a violation of international laws and a serious abuse of basic human rights.
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