Judge urges halt to ‘humiliating’ Gitmo genital searches

Judge urges halt to ‘humiliating’ Gitmo genital searches
A US judge has called for a halt to genital searches at Guantanamo because they violate detainees’ religious values. An order was also issued for detainees weak from the ongoing hunger strike to be allowed to meet with attorneys in the camp.

US District Judge Judith Royce Lamberth slammed the practice of genital searches as it “flagrantly disregards the need for a light touch on religious and cultural matters,” referring to the Muslim inmates at the holding facility.

Judge Lambert released a 35-page report explaining why the genital pat-downs for contraband were discouraging detainees from consulting their attorneys. Guantanamo lawyers said the intrusive practice began when detainees were told they would have to go off-site to meet with legal counsel. Some prisoners reportedly refused because of the searches.

“The search procedures discourage meetings with counsel and so stand in stark contrast to the president’s insistence on judicial review for every detainee,”
Lamberth wrote. “The court, whose duty it is to call the jailer to account, will not countenance the jailer’s interference with detainees’ access to counsel.”

Furthermore, Lamberth demanded that detainees who were weak from hunger striking be allowed enough space to sit upright when they are being transported.

Lamberth noted that previously staff at Guantanamo had refrained from touching the prisoners’ genital areas out of respect for their religious and cultural beliefs. This policy changed with the arrival of a new commander in May.

Army Col. Greg Julian, Guantanamo spokesperson, responded to the judge’s words, maintaining that the chain of command “will review the procedures to figure out how to accommodate the ruling.”

He stressed that such checks were necessary especially following the suicide of Yemeni inmate, Adnan Latif, who took an overdose last year.

The latest ruling follows an appeal by Judge Gladys Kessler to President Barack Obama to cease the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo. She stressed in her four-page report that the court does not have the sufficient powers to intervene in cases concerning detention or treatment of alleged enemy combatants.

Currently 106 prisoners out of the 166 foreign captives at the Guantanamo facility are participating in the hunger strike in protest of their continued detention. According to reports 45 of them are undergoing twice daily nasogastric feedings.

The practice of force-feeding has been branded a “gross abuse of human rights.” Amnesty International has called on the US government to give the detainees at Guantanamo fair trials in US federal courts and charge them or release them immediately.

Over the last decade Amnesty has documented numerous abuses of prisoners including sensory deprivation, prolonged isolation, 20-hour interrogations, stripping and forcible shaving.