Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Pentagon Declares Gitmo Is Humane

The report President Obama commissioned to investigate conditions at Guantanamo has been finished, and apparently Gitmo rates highly:

"A Pentagon review of conditions at the Guantanamo Bay military prison has
concluded that the treatment of detainees meets the requirements of the Geneva
Conventions but that prisoners in the highest-security camps should be allowed
more religious and social interaction, according to a government official who
has read the 85-page document.

The report, which President Obama ordered, was prepared by Adm. Patrick
M. Walsh, the vice chief of naval operations, and has been delivered to the
White House. Obama requested the review as part of an executive order on the
planned closure of the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, on the
southeastern tip of Cuba."

Well, that's a refreshing dose of...dishonesty. The report comes only a few weeks after Lt Col Yvonne Bradley described deteriorating conditions at Guantanamo (The Guardian) - painful forcefeeding, 20 inmates on a "critical list" due to health problems, and beatings for those inmates who resist forcefeeding.

But I suppose I shouldn't distrust the Pentagon reporting on itself...I think the definitive report will come from the International Red Cross. The Center for Constitutional Rights is soon to put out a report on conditions at Guantanamo. Here is a preview from the Washington Post article cited above of what the CCR will find:

"'We do think conditions are in violation of U.S. obligations to treat
prisoners humanely, and prisoners are at a physical and mental breaking point,'
said Pardiss Kebriaei, a staff lawyer at the center. 'These are not the
conclusions we had hoped for under Obama. It's very disappointing.'

Attorneys representing detainees singled out force-feeding as
particularly abusive.

Ahmed Zaid Salem Zuhair, a Saudi who has been on a hunger strike since
the summer of 2005, has lost so much weight during his time at Guantanamo Bay
that a federal judge has ordered an independent medical evaluation of him.
Zuhair's attorney, Ramzi Kassem, said his client has been strapped to an
uncomfortable chair for hours at a time during feedings and described the
procedure as very painful.

'They deliberately use this brutal method that has no medical
justification to put pressure on people like my client to give up the hunger
strike,' he said.

Kassem added that his client, who has been cleared for release, was
recently moved to Camp 6, where he is on nearly round-the-clock lockdown in a
frigid cell.

Walsh, however, found that the temperature in cells is comfortable and
urged officials to continue to use climate controls correctly."

There is simply no way we can trust the Pentagon to run Guantanamo humanely, IMO. And they certainly cannot be trusted to conduct oversight on themselves. There haven't been enough indications from the Obama Administration that Guantanamo has changed since he assumed office. We've heard "nothing's wrong with Guantanamo" for years and it flew in the face of reality. We are hearing the same thing - and not learning enough about the reality there to believe it this time. I want to see evidence that President Obama is enforcing his executive orders. Commission a report to tell us all about how things have improved there. What are the guards that once beat detainees doing now? If you're going to take so long to close it, at least show us that this hellhole has changed.

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