Inside story of the Guantanamo uprising
The camp commander's claims of a co-ordinated revolt are
challenged by new details of the violence.
By Severin Carrell
-- -- The prison camps at Guantanamo
Bay were gripped by a series of uprisings and disturbances last
week which suggest a state of near revolt, it emerged yesterday.
Reports from within the controversial detention centre in Cuba
claim the base's military commanders believe there were links
between a series of suicide attempts, medical emergencies and
the violent clashes between 20 inmates and guards on Thursday.
It was "probably the most violent outbreak" in the camp's
four-year history, claimed Rear Admiral Harry Harris, the
detention and interrogation centre's commander. "These are
dangerous men and determined jihadists," he said.
The base's authorities suspect the incidents were co-ordinated
and fed off each other, but one former inmate and two lawyers
raised substantial doubts about the US military's account of the
Moazzam Begg, the Birmingham bookshop owner released from the
camp last year, said the detention cells were too closely
monitored and controlled for inmates to organise a revolt so
well. Clive Stafford Smith and Brent Mickum, defence lawyers who
regularly visit clients in the base, said they suspected the
official accounts were "rubbish".
Camp officers said the incidents began early on Thursday morning
in Camp 1, when an unconscious inmate was discovered in his
cell. Nearly seven hours later, another detainee was found
unconscious, both from taking anti-depressants which they had
not been prescribed.
During the same period, another two men became ill - one from an
adverse reaction to his medication and a second who over-dosed,
allegedly in solidarity with the two unconscious men.
Five hours later, 10 inmates in another facility, a normally
peaceful communal compound for "compliant" prisoners called Camp
4, allegedly provoked a confrontation with the prison's
notorious "quick reaction force". When the 10-man force arrived,
the authorities claim they were confronted by detainees wielding
improvised weapons made from a broken lighting tube, large fan
blades, CCTV cameras which had been ripped down from walls, and
metal sheeting from buildings.
The floor of their shared bunkhouse had allegedly been slickened
with urine, excrement and soapy water, leading to two guards
slipping. The guards then used pepper-spray and rubber pellet
shotgun blasts to subdue the detainees - five of whom were
treated for minor injuries.
About midnight, an elderly detainee was hit with pepper spray
and treated for minor injuries after inmates in another nearby
camp staged a further demonstration. Several guards suffered
"cuts, scrapes and bruises, just like a good football game,"
said Colonel Mike Burngarner, the base's chief of detention
The authorities claim the disruption was designed to create
further controversy about the camp, because inmates know
Guantanamo Bay is the subject of intense legal and political
controversy. Next month, the US Supreme Court is due to deliver
a critical ruling on whether President Bush's administration can
legally refuse to block legal hearings for the 460 inmates now
Col Burngarner told the Miami Herald that inmates believed three
detainees would need to die in order to provoke a worldwide
backlash intense enough to close the camp. Yesterday, Lord
Goldsmith, the Attorney General, repeated his demand for
Mr Begg, who was seized by the CIA in Pakistan in 2002, said he
was sceptical that inmates would be able to avoid the
round-the-clock surveillance by CCTV cameras, foot patrols and
watchtowers to make and hide weapons. Medical staff were also
scrupulous about ensuring detainees swallowed their medication.
He added that electrical equipment such as fans and cameras were
normally out of reach. "It's not like a Second World War
prisoner of war camp where you can dig tunnels. There's so much
security, day in, day out. Everything is logged, everything is
watched, everything is scheduled," he said.
Mr Stafford Smith and Mr Mickum, who represent detainees with
close ties to the UK, said these unusually detailed and
immediate accounts by the US authorities confirmed the Bush
administration had begun a public relations offensive to rebuild
support for the camp.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
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