Joe Nocera for The New York Times: Guantánamo Rulings Change Little

July 22nd, 2013

The New York Times
by Joe Nocera
July 22, 2013

Over the last two weeks, three federal judges have issued rulings on the legitimacy of the recent rough treatment being doled out to the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Under normal circumstances, two of the rulings would add up to a resounding victory for the detainees. But at Guantánamo Bay, where prisoners the government itself acknowledges are not security threats can see no end to their decade-plus imprisonment, nothing is “normal.”

The rulings began on July 8, when Judge Gladys Kessler opined that the force-feeding of detainees who have been on a hunger strike was “painful, humiliating and degrading” — which is to say, precisely, what the detainees and their lawyers have been claiming for months. She scoffed at the government’s contention that the detainees were receiving “timely, compassionate, quality health care.”

Three days later, Royce C. Lamberth, the chief judge for the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, ruled that prison guards had to stop touching the genitals of the detainees as part of new, tougher search protocols. Since early this year, meetings and even phone calls between detainees and their lawyers have had to take place outside the prisoner’s own “camp.” This meant they had to be searched in this offensive manner both on the trip out to see their lawyers and on the trip back. Because many detainees had religious objections to the genital searches, they were refusing to speak to their lawyers.

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