Uprising at Gitmo

From the London Times, May 20:

THE largest prisoner uprising yet at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre was reported by the US military yesterday as the UN watchdog on torture called for the camp to be shut down.

The revolt took place when ten terror suspects clashed with ten guards trying to prevent a detainee from hanging himself in a communal living space in a medium security section of the camp on Thursday.

The camp commander, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, said that the prisoner was only pretending to hang himself to lure the guards into the room. “The detainees had slickened the floor of their block with faeces, urine and soapy water in an attempt to trick the guards,” he said.

“They then assaulted the guards with broken light fixtures, fan blades and bits of metal.”

The guards used pepper spray and blasted the detainees with several shots from a shotgun that fired rubber balls during the five-minute fight. No guards were hurt, but six inmates were treated for “minor injuries”, he said.

Earlier in the day, two detainees in another part of the prison had attempted suicide by swallowing prescription medicine they had been hoarding, the US military reported. In all, there have been 39 suicide attempts at Guantanamo since it opened in January 2002 — including at least 12 by Juma’a Mohammed al-Dossary, a 32-year-old from Bahrain.

News of the rebellion broke as a UN panel on torture delivered a stinging first review of US policy since Washington began its War on Terror.

The UN Committee Against Torture called on the US to close Guantanamo and any secret prisons it operates abroad. It declared the indefinite detention of suspects without charge to be a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

“The State party should cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close this detention facility, permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible,” the committee said.

The ten-member UN body called on the US to “ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention facility under its de facto effective control”.

It also urged the Bush Administration to “rescind any interrogation technique” that constituted torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, citing sexual humiliation, the use of dogs, “short shackling” suspects to hooks in the floor, and a form of mock drowning known as “water-boarding”.

The panel has no legal power to enforce its demands. But its report adds to a growing chorus of calls — including from Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General — for Washington to close the camp.

The criticism has put the US on the defensive over its human rights record. This month Washington did not seek a seat on the new UN human rights council, which activists attributed to fear that it would not have been elected.

See our last post on the torture scandal.