Guantanamo braces for unrest after Ramadan truce

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The end of Ramadan has left authorities at the Guantanamo Bay military jail preparing for an uptick in unrest at the controversial prison, U.S. officials say.

The annual Muslim fast is traditionally regarded as an unofficial truce at Guantanamo, where some inmates have been held for around a decade without trial.

However officials expect the end of Ramadan and the festival of Eid al-Fitr will be the cue for trouble at Guantanamo, which has witnessed an unprecedented six-month hunger strike this year.

Some inmates at Guantanamo have taken advantage of a tailored menu to observe the Eid holiday.

This weekend inmates were offered halal chicken, halal beef, lamb, dates, honey, says kitchen manager Sam Scott.

Some 38 other hunger-striking inmates, however, will continue to be force-fed by tubes, a practice which has been widely condemned by rights groups.

The number of prisoners on hunger-strike has fallen, possibly as a result of Ramadan, when authorities traditionally offer to wipe clean the slates of inmates facing disciplinary proceedings.

Guantanamo public affairs chief Captain Robert Durand said it “remained to be seen” whether inmates would resume their hunger-strike now that Ramadan was over.

“We did begin Ramadan with what we call a Ramadan pardon,” he explained. “Some welcomed that opportunity; for some of them it was not a matter of two days before they began insulting guards.

“We’re not expected to see a massive disturbance but we will see an uptick in misbehaviors as we come out of Ramadan,” he added.

“Misbehavior” can take different forms, from hurling urine and feces and spitting to punching.

“If there’s a window of opportunity for a detainee for acting out, many will take that opportunity,” said Durand, who reported a calmer atmosphere in the camp during Ramadan.

Guantanamo commander John Bogdan said detainees were generally more compliant during Ramadan.

“The detainees tend to be a little more cooperative during the month,” Bogdan told AFP. “It doesn’t stop all their assaults but it reduces significantly.

“We’ve had several detainees over the last several few months that have been very compliant following the rules that we began to offer them -- communal operations again, living together in groups instead of individual cells,” the camp commander added.

The vast majority of Guantanamo prisoners have been detained in individual cells since a major protest on April 13 which led to rubber bullets being fired after several surveillance cameras were broken.

Zak, a cultural advisor employed by the Pentagon to serve as a link between the inmates and their jailers, said the spike in trouble earlier this year was normal given that camp authorities usually offered an amnesty for Ramadan.

“Before Ramadan they act out more because they know after Ramadan they’re going back to zero,” he said.

Joshua Holmes, a guard at Guantanamo’s Camp 5, said he had been spat at.

“I’ve been spit in my face,” he said. “We’ve had a couple (of incidents), nothing very major, just like minor stuff.

“There’s been quite a few (urine) splash assaults and stuff like this.”

At least one nurse had been punched while attempting to insert a feeding a tube into a hunger-striker.

Prison guard James Boudreau meanwhile said staff remained unfazed by abusive prisoners.

“If you get splashed or somebody spits on you . . . you can’t just not do your job anymore,” Boudreau said.

“It will affect you, but it’s the kind of training we received, you have to be vigilant, you can’t just blindly go and open the detainee door, you know what could happen.”

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