Gitmo in Conformity with Geneva Convention, Obama-Ordered Report Confirms
February 24, 2009 - 6:53 PMThe Guantanamo Bay prison where terror suspects are held was examined by a special task force ordered by President Barack Obama. In its 81-page report, released Monday, the task force concluded: "After considerable deliberation and a comprehensive review, it is our judgment that the conditions of confinement in Guantanamo are in conformity with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention."
The report also noted that the prison, popularly referred to as Gitmo, keeps its thermostat set between 75 and 80 degrees, provides art classes to the prisoners, and holds a library of 13,000 books, 900 magazines, 300 DVDs and regular TV programs. Also, there is a “detainee newsletter.”
Democrats and some Republicans have alleged that terror suspects have been tortured by the U.S. government during interrogations at Gitmo. Obama, during his first week in office, signed an executive order to close the prison within a year.
The task force assigned to review Gitmo was headed by Admiral Patrick Walsh, vice chief of Naval Operations. Walsh told reporters Monday that the investigation was conducted over 13 days and consisted of more than 100 interviews including prisoners and guards.
“All interrogations are voluntary; approximately one-third of the sessions are at detainees’ request,” the report states. “Given the length of time that most detainees have spent at Guantanamo, the primary focus of the interrogation is to gather security and force protection information related to the operations of detention camps. The current nature of the intelligence mission lends itself to the use of direct approaches and small incentive items to encourage detainees to volunteer information.”
Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, which requires humane treatment of prisoners of war, says, “Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed ‘hors de combat’ by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.”
The report did however call for Gitmo to provide more recreation, “group prayer” time, and “intellectual stimulation” for terror suspects, stating that “further socialization is essential to maintain humane treatment over time.” At the same time, it commended the prison for already being strong on these points.
Every prisoner has a copy of the Koran in the language of their choice. Each prisoner is given prayer beads, cap, rug and current prayer schedule. “Guards and staff have received specialized cultural and religious sensitivity training,” and the report adds, “guards have been disciplined for interfering with prayer time.”
The recreation includes a “large recreation yard with facilities/equipment to support soccer, basketball, volleyball, jogging, table tennis, foosball (sic), treadmill and elliptical machines – for up to 20 hours daily.”
When they are not exercising, the prisoners can go to the day room where “they are offered TV, three newspaper publications, detainee newsletters, books, magazines, art supplies, board games, hand-held electronic games and puzzles.”
The report also endorsed “the use of video recording in all camps and for all interrogations. The use of video recordings to confirm humane treatment could be an important enabler for detainee operations.”
The Pentagon released the report on the same day that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited the prison with a team from the Department of Justice to do his own inspection.
About 245 prisoners – including some charged for taking part in plotting the 9/11 terror attacks – were reduced by one when Binyam Mohammed was released to British authorities on Feb. 23, who said he would not be re-arrested.
“The friendship and assistance of the international community is vitally important as we work to close Guantanamo, and we greatly appreciate the efforts of the British government to work with us on the transfer of Binyam Mohammed,” Holder said in a statement.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans plan to lead a fight against closing the prison, particularly in light of the Pentagon report, said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Republican Conference.
“Worrying about world opinion is fine, but worrying about the safety of the American people is paramount and more important than the approval of France,” Pence told CNSNews.com. “These prisoners don’t belong in any prison facility in the U.S. That prison facility would immediately be targeted by terrorist elements.”
There are two types of housing at Gitmo. One facility offers communal living for detainees considered to be a lesser risk; the other six facilities resemble maximum security prisons for the more high-risk population.
However, according to the report, those in the communal facility have posed a threat. “In 2004, the communal living camp was the scene of a detainee plot to commandeer a food truck to be used to kill guards.” Again, in 2006, “the same camp was the scene of a costly riot that almost resulted in the serious injury of guards,” the report stated.
The report goes on to approve of the general housing situation for the prisoners. Detainees have a minimum of four hours per day outside, if they comply with the rules. If they are being disciplined, that drops to two hours per day of recreation.
“Detainees should be offered maximum access to natural light, while still providing them with safety measures against bright and direct sunlight, including more time outside,” the report says. It goes on to suggest, “make the windows in Cell 5 clear instead of opaque.”
“The closed climate-controlled facilities maintain a temperature register between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit and are always monitored by the guard force,” the report states. “All spaces provide ample access to daylight with either window in individual cells, skylights and/or open air doors.”
The prisoners are provided three hot meals per day with between 4,500 and 5,000 calories daily. They have “six menus for detainees to choose from,” with a typical meal consisting of “meat, starch (plus bread), vegetable, dessert, fruit, fruit juice or similar drink.”