Sun, Jul 03, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Guantanamo `tense, hostile': paper

NEW DETAILS Some documents obtained by the press indicate that prisoners of the US' detention camp resisted in various ways, and were victims of retaliation

AP , SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

This photo shows a view of the Delta Camp on the US Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba, where 600 alleged Taliban prisoners are held captive. The OSCE said in a report released yesterday that the US should close the camp because it is ineffective in fighting terrorism and fuels anti-US anger worldwide.

PHOTO: AFP

The prisoners banged on their cells to protest the heat at Guantanamo Bay. They doused guards with whatever liquid was handy -- from spit to urine. Sometimes they struck their jailers, one swinging a steel chair at a military police officer.

And the American MPs at times retaliated with force -- punches, pepper spray and a splash of cleaning fluid in the face, according to documents obtained by reporters that detail military investigations and eyewitness accounts of alleged abuse.

Military authorities have previously disclosed some incidents of guard retaliation, which resulted in mostly minor disciplinary proceedings. What emerges from 278 pages of the newly released documents is the degree of defiance by the terrorism suspects at Guantanamo.

Some prisoners at the US base in eastern Cuba have gone on the attack, as in April 2003 when a detainee got out of his cell during a search for contraband food and knocked out a guard's tooth with a punch to the mouth and bit him before he was subdued by MPs. One soldier delivered two blows to the inmate's head with a handheld radio, the documents show.

"Several guards were trying to hold down the detainee who was putting up heavy resistance," recounted a translator who saw the incident."The detainee was covered in blood as were some of the guards."

The soldier who struck the inmate -- and was dropped in rank to private first class as a result -- described it as a close call. "The detainee was fighting as if he really wanted to hurt us. ... We all saved each other's lives in my opinion," he wrote. The documents, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by AP, are far from a comprehensive look at Guantanamo and do not provide full details about each incident.

Names and some other identifying details have been blacked out by military censors. Handwriting at times isn't legible and pages appear to be missing or out of sequence. In some cases, it is not possible to decipher who did what to whom. Disciplinary measures against the troops were either relatively minor or unclear in some reports.

The internal investigative reports do, however, provide a snapshot of life behind the wire at Guantanamo, depicting a tense, hostile and sometimes chaotic place.

In one of the more serious incidents described in the documents, detainees told guards that an MP threw the cleaning liquid Pine-Sol in the eyes of a prisoner one night in January 2004. In a written statement, another soldier said he came in immediately afterward to find what smelled like cleaning liquid dripping from the cell.

"The detainee could be seen rubbing his eyes intensely and moaning in pain," he said.

Documents show that the guard, from the 661st Military Police Company, did not admit throwing the cleaning fluid when questioned about it that night, but did say the detainee had spit on him, and may have thrown urine. A medic on the cell block flushed the detainee's eyes with water, a witness said.

A Department of Defense investigative memo written six months later concluded the soldier had mistreated detainees twice -- the second offense involved cursing at inmates -- and that his superiors failed to report either episode.

Investigators recommended disciplinary action against the soldier and a probe into why the incident wasn't reported up the chain of command, but the outcome is unclear from the papers.

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