Head of Guantanamo Bay decides to move all Camp VI detainees into single cells
Detainees were obstructing cameras and windows, a U.S. military spokesman
Some inmates resisted using "improvised weapons"; guards replied with non-lethal rounds
A lawyer says frustrations are growing among detainees
Guantanamo Bay detainees wielding “improvised weapons” clashed Saturday with guards, an episode that occurred amid simmering tensions at the U.S. military base.
The U.S. guards responded by firing “four less-than-lethal rounds,” the military’s Joint Task Force Guantanamo said in a statement. No guards or detainees suffered “serious injuries” at the facility in Cuba.
The incident, which happened in Camp VI at the detention center, comes as some inmates have waged a weeks-long hunger strike in protest of their treatment, guards searching through Qurans and other issues.
Since 2002, the Guantanamo detention center – where people have been held in a range of conditions, from communal living to lone, maximum-security cells – has held people captured outside the United States in counterterrorism operations. As of November 2012, there were 166 detainees in the facility, according to a government report.
Carlos Warner, a U.S. lawyer representing some of those detainees, told CNN late last month detainees have become increasingly frustrated with “very dire, dire conditions” and their sense that the current legal process leaves them in limbo indefinitely.
“It leaves them with the prospect of the only way we leave Guantanamo is death,” Warner said. “Unfortunately, I think the men are ready to embrace this.”
Early Saturday, the commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo ordered all inmates in Camp VI moved into individual cells. The reason, the military explained, was “to ensure the health and security of those detainees.”
The clashes occurred while guards tried to move inmates.
Capt. Robert Durand, a Guantanamo spokesman, said the decision was made after detainees starting in February – about the same time as latest hunger strike – began obstructing surveillance cameras, windows and glass partitions. These actions, which Durand described as “non-compliant” and “unacceptable,” made it difficult for guards to do “round-the-clock monitoring” throughout the facility.
“Suspending the detainees’ communal living privileges was in response to a coordinated effort by detainees to create an unsafe situation and limit the guard force’s observation,” the military spokesman said.
“… The ability to continuously monitor detainees is the only way we can provide for their health and security. We should have gone in earlier.”
Warner, the public defender for some Guantanamo detainees, has said frustrations have grown since a change in command last year, which was followed by a number of new policies.
The lack of action in closing Guantanamo Bay – as President Barack Obama signed on to – is furthering resentment that those held have no recourse or hope, the lawyer said.
“It was designed … to be exactly what it is, a legal no man’s land,” Warner said. “Where there’s one way in and the only way out is in a box.”