Gitmo Genital Searches Halted
WASHINGTON - A federal judge Thursday ordered the government to stop genital searches of Guantanamo Bay detainees who want to meet with their lawyers, concluding that the motivation for the searches is not to enhance security, but to deter the detainees’ access to attorneys.
In a blistering 35-opinion, Royce Lamberth, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, ordered prison commanders to return to the old search method: grasping the waistband of a detainee’s trousers and shaking the pants to dislodge any contraband.
"As petitioners’ counsel argued, 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," Lamberth wrote.
Lamberth, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, quoted President Barack Obama’s comment at a speech in May, in which the president said his administration will insist that judicial review be available for every Guantanamo detainee. The judge wrote that the actions of Obama’s commanders at the military-run prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo can’t be squared with that.
The detainees had complained that guards had recently begun touching and holding detainees’ genital and anal areas during searches.
Detainee lawyers say the searches began after prisoners were told they would have to travel offsite to meet with their lawyers at another location at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, rather than at the camps where they are housed. The lawyers say some detainees had refused to make the trip because of the new searches.
The government said that detainees are searched twice when they make the trips - going and returning - but a lawyer for one of the detainees said it’s four times.
In addition to ending the genital searches, Lamberth ordered the government to allow detainees who are weak because of their participation in an ongoing hunger strike, or those who have a medical condition that makes it difficult to travel outside the camp, to be allowed to meet with their lawyers at the housing camp. Just over 100 of the 166 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo have been on a hunger strike for four months to protest their indefinite detention.