Guantanamo detainees face harsh conditions, hunger strike: defense lawyers

[JURIST] Defense lawyers for terrorism detainees held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] sent a letter [text, PDF] to Rear Admiral John Smith Jr. [official profile] describing harsh conditions faced by the detainees and indicated that the detainees have begun to protest the conditions, including participating in a hunger strike. The letter alleged that "camp authorities have been confiscating detainees' personal items, including blankets, sheets, towels, mats, razors, toothbrushes, books, family photos, religious CDs, and letters, including legal mail; and restricting their exercise, seemingly without provocation or cause." They further allege that searches of their Korans have been conducted in a desecrating manner. As a result of these and other practices, the detainees have begun to protest, including through a hunger strike which is in its third week. The letter indicates that some of the detainees are suffering health consequences as a result of the protests. The lawyers called on Smith, the commanding officer of the facility, to address the concerns listed and to respond with a description of the policy changes. The lawyers learned of these practices and protests after being permitted to visit [JURIST report] the detention center by a judge in February.

The procedures and policies regarding the 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] military commission hearings have faced significant scrutiny. In February lawyers for the US Navy contended [JURIST report] that surveillance equipment deployed throughout the Guantanamo Bay detention center was not used to breach attorney-client privilege. Earlier in the month a military judge ordered the removal [JURIST report] of any monitoring system that censors the public broadcast of the hearings. In September, a federal judge rejected [JURIST report] new restrictions on the ability of lawyers representing detainees who have had their habeas corpus challenges denied or dismissed to access their clients. In February 2012 the chief US military tribunal judge ruled [JURIST report] that the content of attorney-client mail inspected at the Guantanamo Bay prison is confidential and may not be released.

 

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