March 27, 2023

Medan, Indonesia – A reported outbreak of COVID-19 at the US’s Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba is inflicting concern for the authorized counsel and relations of detainees amid a scarcity of transparency in regards to the standing of these affected.

“As I perceive it, many detainees in each camps have contracted COVID inside the final couple of weeks, though the US authorities won’t affirm numbers,” Alka Pradhan, a world human rights lawyer who represents one of many detainees at Guantanamo, advised Al Jazeera.

She added it was not clear how the virus was launched to the camps and that a number of the camp’s guards had been additionally unwell.

“It is a huge outbreak,” one other supply conversant in the state of affairs and talking on situation of anonymity advised Al Jazeera. “That is essentially the most extreme outbreak within the detainee inhabitants within the camp itself ever and it’s the first time that one thing like this has occurred on this scale.”

“As Guantanamo is so politically delicate, the US authorities needs to be making dealing with it a precedence.”

The extremely secretive US-run jail in Cubawhich opened as a part of the so-called “battle on terror” within the wake of the September 11, 2011 assaults, at present has some 34 detainees break up throughout two camps.

The outbreak is assumed to have been gathering momentum since final month.

“It took days for the federal government to inform any of the attorneys that their purchasers had examined optimistic and after we requested about what remedy choices had been out there, we had been advised to file a discovery request,” Pradhan mentioned.

A discovery request is the formal strategy of exchanging data between authorized events in regards to the witnesses and proof to be introduced at trial.

“Secretacy is the precedence, not care.”

ageing inhabitants

Whereas Guantanamo Bay as soon as held some 780 prisoners, it now operates solely Camp 5 and Camp 6 – the primary for so-called “excessive worth” detainees and the second for these designated “low worth”.

“Excessive-value” inmates are those that had been transferred to Guantanamo in 2006 and 2007 after being held at abroad CIA services often known as “black websites”, the place they had been subjected to torture together with beatings, waterboarding and sexual assault.

Lots of the males are affected by well being situations because of their remedy and extended detention.

Pradhan advised Al Jazeera that his shopper, Ammar al Baluchi, examined optimistic for COVID-19 two weeks in the past at Camp 5 and that his situation was worrying due to his present well being points.

Baluchi, a 45-year-old Pakistani nationwide, is accused of serving to to facilitate the 9/11 assaults and appearing as a monetary courier for al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, though he’s nonetheless awaiting trial at a navy court docket at Guantanamo.

“Ammar already suffers from mind harm, a number of traumatic mind accidents (TBIs) and sleep disturbances (incapability to sleep for greater than a few hours at a time) from his torture in CIA custody from 2003 to 2006,” Pradhan mentioned.

“He’s additionally in cognitive decline because of his untreated TBIs. The added COVID signs of mind fog and excessive fatigue have been extraordinarily worrisome, and we’ve requested about his remedy within the hopes that he won’t undergo from lengthy COVID.”

The outside of the Guantanamo Bay naval facility, with barbed wire running along the top of the fence and a sign that says: 'CAMP V, JTF Guantanamo, Honor Bound to Defend Freedom'
COVID-19 has unfold in Camp 5, the place so-called ‘excessive worth’ detainees are held, in addition to in Camp 6 and among the many guards. [File: Mandel Ngan/Pool via Reuters]

Pradhan added that Baluchi is vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19 however it’s thought that another detainees on the facility have refused the vaccine as a result of they don’t belief the authorities.

“These are previous males and a few of them have comorbidities,” a supply conversant in the structure of the camps advised Al Jazeera, including that COVID-19 might simply unfold on the web site because of the comparatively relaxed environment in recent times, notably at Camp 6 that homes the detainees who didn’t arrive at Guantanamo through the CIA websites.

“The camp is made up of 4 atriums and a collective dwelling house and homes round 20 prisoners. It is like a medium-security jail,” the supply mentioned.

Even the Camp 5 detainees have some freedom of motion through the day. They will transfer between blocks and spend time in communal prayer and meals areas the place they will mingle.

Certainly one of them is Indonesian nationwide Encep Nurjaman, who’s extra broadly often known as Hambali,

The 58-year-old is accused of getting masterminded the Bali Bombings in 2002, which left greater than 200 folks useless and an extra 200 injured when a number of bombs ripped by a well-liked nightlife space on the island of Bali in Indonesia. Hambali was arrested in Thailand in 2003 and charged final 12 months. His trial has but to start.

It’s believed that Hambali is among the detainees who has contracted COVID-19 because of the current outbreak.

When contacted by Al Jazeera, Hambali’s brother Gun Gun declined to touch upon the present standing of his brother’s well being.

Medical care ‘a joke’

In response to lawyer Pradhan, the COVID-19 outbreak highlights the veil of secrecy and incompetence that has lengthy surrounded medical points on the jail.

“Medical care is a joke at Guantanamo, and authorized specialists have discovered that the US authorities is actively committing torture by withholding correct medical care to the detainees,” she mentioned.

She says the US authorities prioritizes the secrecy of its torture program by refusing to take affected person histories and that the dearth of those histories makes it tough for detainees to be given complete medical care.

“It isn’t at present attainable to supply advanced medical or psychological care at Guantanamo. The US authorities must acknowledge that they’ve an ageing inhabitants of torture victims who want correct care and permit for unbiased torture rehabilitation and different medical specialists to judge the detainees and supply remedy,” she added.

One other supply conversant in the navy base added that whereas the jail has some restricted medical gear comparable to ventilators, which have been used when performing rudimentary surgical procedure up to now, it doesn’t have extra refined gear that will be wanted if detainees had been to turn into critically unwell with diseases together with COVID-19.

Legally, worldwide protections such because the Geneva Conventions assure the fitting to medical take care of all prisoners. Nevertheless, the US authorities has routinely mentioned detainees at Guantanamo Bay aren’t topic to such protections as they’re thought of.enemy combatantsrather than prisoners.

Human rights teams have condemned the absence of medical care at Guantanamo, notably in mild of the newest COVID-19 outbreak.

“The current studies about Guantanamo detainees contracting COVID spotlight our ongoing considerations in regards to the secrecy surrounding their situations of detention and the standard of the healthcare they’re receiving,” Daphne Eviatar, Amnesty Worldwide’s US director of Safety with Human Rights, advised Al Jazeera.

She added that there have been many cases of detainees receiving substandard care over time, partially because of the US Congress’s refusal to permit any of them to journey to the US.

“The entire Guantanamo state of affairs – Muslim males held for many years with out cost or trial, with insufficient healthcare or remedy for the trauma a lot of them endured having been tortured by US brokers – is appalling and should come to an finish.”

The Guantanamo authorities didn’t reply to a request for remark.

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