US government flouts judge’s order to stop Guantanamo genital searches

July 17, 2013

The US government is ignoring a judge’s order that they stop guards in Guantanamo Bay from performing invasive genital searches on detainees who want to meet or speak with their lawyers.

In a ruling last week Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the Government to stop the genital searches. He wrote that “the choice between submitting to a search procedure that is religiously and culturally abhorrent or forgoing counsel effectively presents no choice for devout Muslims like petitioners.”   Yet the Obama administration is refusing to stop performing the searches.

In an email to Reprieve’s Guantanamo lawyers, Andrew Warden from the U.S. Department of Justice said:

“DoD is not in a position to apply the Court’s order with respect to your scheduled telephone calls tomorrow.  Should you wish to proceed with your scheduled calls tomorrow, the search and other procedures utilized by JTF-Guantanamo will need to be those standard procedures currently in use.”

In conversations with their lawyers after Judge Lamberth’s order was handed down, Reprieve’s clients have described the on-going searches.

  • Nabil Hadjarab said on a telephone call, “The body searches are still happening.”
  • Ahmed Belbacha also told his lawyer that the “searches are the same as they were before. Nothing changed about that.” He said that he was also searched before a call with his family the day before.
  • Another client, Ahmed Rabbani, refused a scheduled call with his attorney yesterday.

The search policy appears to be part of a coordinated strategy by JTF-GTMO to suppress information about the ongoing hunger strike from reaching the world outside.

On a recent telephone call Shaker Aamer told his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, that “Zak [the prison’s Muslim cultural advisor] is the one who told them to the strip search before lawyer visits. He told them that we were hiding things in our private parts. Zak knows that Muslim men are really embarrassed by being sexually assaulted like this.”

Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and counsel for the detainees, said: “This is contempt of court, pure and simple. Why is it suddenly essential for the government to grope my clients in a way that has been off-limits for years? These searches are a transparent effort to break the hunger strike and to staunch the flow of information about it to the outside world. Someone at the top of the Administration needs to step in and direct DOJ to drop this issue and DOD to stop feeling up the detainees.  If they want the strike to end, the right way to do it is to release a cleared man. Insisting on this needless groping policy just makes a joke of Obama’s lofty words on Gitmo.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells or Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / 8166 / clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The email from Andrew Warden at the U.S. Department of Justice was received on July 15th, 2013. It said:

Dear Counsel […] regarding your scheduled telephone calls tomorrow [… ] please be advised that the government will shortly be seeking a stay Judge Lamberth’s July 11, 2013 order concerning, among other things, modification of JTF-Guantanamo detainee search procedures.  Given the timing of the order and other factors, DoD is not in a position to apply the Court’s order with respect to your scheduled telephone calls tomorrow.  Should you wish to proceed with your scheduled calls tomorrow, the search and other procedures utilized by JTF-Guantanamo will need to be those standard procedures currently in use.   If you consider this to be problematic, we would ask that you postpone your calls for at least several days pending further action on the forthcoming motion to stay.  If you wish to postpone your calls, please let us know as soon as possible […] Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sign up to join our press mailing list.