‘The gall of this country’: Gitmo attorneys buying basic items for long-held detainees – report

Attorneys for prisoners held at the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay say they have had to purchase shoes, clothes, personal hygiene products and other basic items for detainees they represent. They accuse the prison of “pinching pennies.”

The 114 detainees left at Joint Task Force Guantánamo in Cuba are walking around in ragged clothing and shoes held together with duct tape, several attorneys told the Miami Herald. The detention center, which has cost more than $5 billion since it opened in 2002 and boasts a staff of more than 2,000 people, increasingly leaves detainees without adequate clothing, attorneys said. Shampoo, toothpaste and other personal hygiene items are too cheap to be effective, they added.

“Stuff’s just not getting replaced,” said lawyer George Clarke, who recently purchased new shoes, sandals, T-shirts and towels for his two clients, at a cost of about $300. “They say the stuff they get is crap. Or they’re not getting it.”

A Gitmo spokesman insisted standards “have not changed,” but refused to comment on whether the situation is based on budget cutbacks or new prison policy.

“Any reports of shortages are baseless,” Navy Captain Christopher Scholl, public affairs officer at the prison, told the Herald. “The JTF [Joint Task Force Guantánamo] is committed to ensuring detainees are kept in a safe, secure and humane environment. The physical and mental well-being of detainees is our primary responsibility, and their security is of vital importance to our mission.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross would not indicate whether it had raised any issues with the prison regarding basic prisoner provisions.

The Pentagon is currently considering a $3 million expansion of its war court compound at Camp Justice at Gitmo, according to a separate Miami Herald report on October 10.

A dozen attorneys told the Herald that their detainee clients are appearing at legal meetings looking disheveled and without attire in good condition. This is worth mentioning, they said, because the vast majority of detainees attempt to clean up before such meetings.

“They’re looking pretty threadbare,” said attorney Cori Crider, of the legal defense group Reprieve, who had just bought shampoo and socks for a client. “It’s an escalating complaint that people are being left in rags.”

Other items, like the serving of lamb during Ramadan, have disappeared altogether. Gitmo’s cultural advisers said “logistics” were to blame.

One attorney said that she spent $136 on shoes, socks, and other items for her two Yemeni clients in March. These items, like all donations or products bought by attorneys, are vetted by prison staff before given to captives.

“I don’t mind buying my clients shoes to improve their conditions,” said Patricia Bronte. “It’s the gall of this country. To detain these guys for little or no reason for 14 years and not provide them with shoes is offensive.”

Attorney Ramzi Kassem, a professor at the City University of New York School of Law, which is representing five detainees, said his clients have quoted guards and other prison staff as saying budget cuts are to blame.

“Sometimes it’s a problem of poor toiletries – soap that doesn’t lather, toothpaste that doesn’t froth, deodorant that doesn’t prevent body odor,” he said, adding the prison’s infamous orange jumpsuits are fading and tearing, and prison-issued footwear appears “Oliver Twist tattered.”

Prisoners know how much money runs through the detention center, Kassem said.

“Somebody’s pinching pennies, it seems,” he said.

Fifty-four of Gitmo’s 114 remaining detainees have been cleared for release, yet they will remain at the prison until the US State Department negotiates resettlement or repatriation terms with another nation before being approved by the Pentagon.

Via RT.