Guards at Guantanamo Clash with Prisoners over Hunger Strike Protests

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Aaron Schachter: Things have never been pretty in the U.S military prison in Guantanamo Bay, but this spring has been especially ugly. Prisoner protests more from mass hunger strikes to all out violence last Saturday. Guards stormed a prison camp where prisoners were refusing to leave a common area and prisoners fought back. Earlier this week we spoke with Carol Rosenburg of the Miami Herald about the clashes, she was en route to Guantanamo at the time, now she's there. She's been allowed to see the part of the prison where the fighting took place. I asked her what she saw on her guided tour.

Carol Rosenberg: What we saw was the aftermath of this violence. We saw a display put on by the military of what they said were make-shift weapons that were used on them as the guards came in to push them in, into their cells. We saw the piled in a corner black helmets and shields and and kind of what you would call hockey gear for the guards who took the action on Saturday morning before dawn. What we didn't see was the wounded. You know before dawn on Saturday these twelve troop squads charged inside the camp and sort of clashed with the captains. The military said they were wielding broom handles and had a metal rod and cracked a couple of guards on the head. They had helmets, and we didn't see the prisoner whose head was apparently split open when the military said he whacked his own head against the cell door. What they showed us was a camp where the order has been restored, where it looks like the Guantanamo of I would say, five, six years ago, before they engaged in this experiment of trying to let them live POW style in bunk houses or collectively.

Schachter: This does sound like a rather nasty event, there was talk, you've written about inmates trying to douse guards with urine, with feces. Is there any way to confirm either side of the story really?

Rosenberg: Nobody was here to watch it. There was no independent monitors. You know this happened Saturday morning just hours after the Red Cross left from a two week or so mission to check on the health of the detainees, and it occurred about three days before they left the media in for the first time since I was here a month before. There was no independent way to see it, they claim that there is no video and that this was over in about five hours. They have showed us some pretty nasty homemade weapons; broom handles from when they lived communally and when they were able to sweep out their areas, a metal rod pulled from an exercise machine, homemade implements that they said were quite dangerous. Some of which they said were not really turned on them, the resistance they said was quick, but that once they pushed them out of their cells and put them in these lock down and empty individual cells, they showed us shanks and different kinds of weapons and clubs that had been found in the cells for what the prison said might have been used at another time.

Schachter: Carol you've been going to Guantanamo for years, seen a lot of the ups and downs there, I wonder if you've seen any change in the guards demeanor?

Rosenberg: Well I have to tell you, I was here a month ago and the guards were very anxious and there was absolutely no reflection of confidence in what they were doing. As I said, I think the detainees were in charge inside their blocks and the guards were looking in and they were pretty angry. The detainees had covered up the cameras inside their individual cells, kind of blinding the guard force and if not anger, there was a frustration on their part that they could not be in charge. Come back now a month later and their feeling pretty confident that they've got it under control, that they're now in charge and that the detainees, the captains are their charges and they can keep an eye on them.

Schachter: The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg, she spoke with us from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Carol thank you.

Rosenberg: You bet.