Although the oppressive, punitive conditions at Camp 6 are far worse than U.S. maximum security prisons, many of its occupants have, in effect, been declared innocent by the military. Camp 6 includes detainees who have been cleared for transfer because the military has determined that they are no longer considered to be a danger to the United States or its allies, that they no longer have any intelligence value and that there is no other reason to keep them locked up. They remain only until they can be repatriated to their country of origin, or another country willing to accept them. Can there be any justification for a civilized country to hold any of this group of approximately 100 men, in conditions worse than maximum security? The answer is surely no. Yet we do. The International Justice Clinic at Fordham University School of Law represents four men imprisoned at Guant�namo. More than eight months ago, one of our clients was deemed to be no threat to the United States, yet he was transferred to Camp 6 when it opened; we know of other “cleared” men in the same position.
The men imprisoned in Camp 6 are alone in cells with walls, floors and ceilings of solid metal 22 hours a day. There is no natural light or air and no windows except strips of glass next to the solid metal door that allow only a view of an interior corridor. During cell time, the men have no contact with any human beings other than guards.
“Rec time” consists of a transfer in shackles to a “pod” of five pens separated by chain-link fences. Each detainee is placed alone in a 12- by 9-foot pen for two hours and allowed to communicate with others should there be men in adjacent pens. The two-story-high concrete walls of the pod are covered by barbed wire, allowing a glimpse of the sky but no view of the horizon. Though this outdoor time is offered each 24-hour period, it is sometimes offered very late at night. Other than heavily censored letters to family and from family, the imprisoned men are completely cut off from information about the outside world. Though the prison was built with common areas, such as those where U.S. maximum-security prison inmates are permitted to spend their time during the day, the prisoners of Camp 6 are not permitted access to these areas. Indeed, in U.S. maximum security prisons where we send the “worst of the worst” (after a whole lot of process, none of which occurs in Guant�namo), it is common for inmates to have jobs, to eat communally, to receive visits from family and friends and to have social contact with other inmates.
Because the detainees in Camp 6 (and other camps) are already kept in strict isolation, solitary confinement is not an option for punishing those thought to have misbehaved. But there are other ways to deal with perceived disobedience: One’s diet is limited to bread with raisins and water for three days. If that does not achieve the desired effect, the same diet (except the raisins) may be continued for 30 days. The administration has trumpeted the fact that Camp 6 is air-conditioned, a useful if not essential benefit in Cuba, but even air conditioning is used to punish. An undershirt-a comfort item provided to diminish the effects of over air conditioning-is taken away for just about any reason. Additional punishments include injuries sustained during “ERFings”-the application of a huge, sudden use of force by an Emergency Reaction Force composed of five or six well-padded guards. And perhaps most offensive to what some consider core American values, punishment includes humiliating detainees by cutting off their beards and hair in contravention of their religion.
There are about 400 men imprisoned at Guant�namo. Only 10 of them were charged under the president’s first military commission system that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, and none has been charged under the new military commission system passed by Congress last year. The government claims it intends to charge and try 60 to 80 men; with approximately 100 men languishing, but cleared for transfer, this leaves more than 200 men already imprisoned or at risk of being imprisoned under conditions that are worse than the harshest prisons in our federal system-without due process and with no end in sight. The situation at Guant�namo is worsening, desperate and critical. Many minds have already been lost and their bodies will soon follow.