Do Gitmo Abuses Still Continue?

Believing that nothing would change and that his acquittal had been false, he launched another hunger strike. And, once again, he was force-fed. This entailed having a nurse insert a pencil-thick tube into his nose and snaking feeding tubes down into his stomach. It was a painful procedure, and Boudediene claims that he complained about the nurse taking more than 15 minutes to perform it -- long enough to make his nose bleed. He believes that she deliberately took her time and claims that, despite the new president's claims in faraway Washington, such actions were par for the course in Guantanamo.

In early February, a delegation from the Pentagon arrived to inspect detention conditions at the camp. The officials did not see Boumediene, the supposedly "free" detainee, because he had been placed in solitary confinement in Camp 3's so-called "Oscar Block" the day before. Of the acquitted detainees, he was the only one on a hunger strike.

"They put him in a terribly cold cell with 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius)," says Kirsch. "For the first days he had no running water, and he had to sleep on a pad less than one-centimeter thick visibly stained and smelling of food, vomit and feces." According to Kirsch, Boumediene was "kept isolated there" for 10 days, until Feb. 10, and was "not permitted to shower, pray or change his clothes. He was force fed using violent methods that were intended to and did injure him, and there was no medical treatment" for a foot injury.

When Kirsch met with his client on Feb. 12, Boumediene showed the lawyer the bruises covering his body. Kirsch then complained to the Pentagon about Boumediene's treatment. "At that time, an American judge already had ruled my client should be a free man, but the military still would not deliver to him hundreds of letters his wife, daughters and other family members had written to him over the years he was imprisoned illegally," Kirsch adds. Boumediene eventually did receive a few of the letters, but only on May 15, the day of his release.

Unkept Promises

The US Department of Defense denies all these accusations; it claims that they are unfounded and that procedures at Guantanamo have been reviewed. But Kirsch is convinced that the treatment of detainees like Boumediene violates the Geneva Conventions.

Ironically, the delegation that the Pentagon sent to Guantanamo came to similar conclusions about the conditions there, noting that abuse and mistreatment had, in fact, occurred. But the Pentagon officials insisted that the soldiers in question were disciplined, ordered to undergo special training or discharged. Otherwise, its report was positive.

Other reports about the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo have also emerged since Obama became president in January. Mohammed el Gharani, who was released and returned to his native Chad in April, claims that, until his last day at Guantanamo, soldiers beat him with sticks and used pepper spray on him whenever he refused to leave his cell. Another detainee has corroborated Gharani's claims.

"We never imagined that detainee abuse would continue after Jan. 20," says Michael Ratner, the head of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. Ratner coordinates the legal defense of Guantanamo detainees. Across the ocean, the London-based organization Reprieve, which has defended many Guantanamo prisoners over the years, is now calling for an independent investigative commission to be appointed.

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