IN THE CAMPS

Guantánamo guard chief: Prison tap water is safe

 
 
Captives who won't eat and are considered at risk are given up-to twice daily feedings of Ensure or other nutritional shakes, often while strapped into a restraint chair shown in this Thursday, March 21, 2013 display at the prison camps' hospital at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, and cleared for release by the U.S. military.
Captives who won't eat and are considered at risk are given up-to twice daily feedings of Ensure or other nutritional shakes, often while strapped into a restraint chair shown in this Thursday, March 21, 2013 display at the prison camps' hospital at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, and cleared for release by the U.S. military.
CAROL ROSENBERG / THE MIAMI HERALD

crosenberg@miamiherald.com

The Army officer in charge of the Guantánamo Bay guards said in a sworn statement Thursday that there’s nothing wrong with the tap water at the prison, despite claims to the contrary by prisoners and U.S. forces who have worked there.

“It is the same water that I drink on a daily basis,” Army Col. John Bogdan said in an affidavit presented to a federal judge in Washington, D.C.

Bogdan added that the water is desalinated on the U.S. base in Cuba and checked at least once a month by Navy medical staff assigned to the prison to make sure it’s safe.

The government filed the statement in federal court in Washington in response to claims by prisoners that they have been denied safe water and that the air conditioning was being kept frigid to punish them during a hunger strike. The military disputes the claims and says prisoners are also offered bottled water.

Defense lawyers for a Yemeni detainee brought the issue to an emergency hearing, by telephone, before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan. Mari Newman, a Denver-based attorney for the prisoner, Musaab al Madhwani, said Hogan took the matter so seriously he set a full evidentiary session for 10 a.m. on April 15.

“He was particularly concerned about our client’s health,” said Newman. “He was very aware of the hunger strikes that are going on.”

Hogan also put government lawyers on notice, said Newman, that “the hunger strike should not affect the detainees’ access to water and the other conditions within the prison.”

There was no way to independently confirm Newman’s account of the hearing. Hogan held Thursday’s hearing with government attorneys and defense counsel for Madhwani by telephone. His law clerk refused a reporter’s request to dial in and would not admit a McClatchy Newspapers reporter who arrived at the federal courthouse to listen in person.

The clerk told the reporter the judge was taking a “prearranged call in his private chambers,” and that because he was not holding the hearing in his courtroom, a reporter was not being provided access. A Justice Department spokesman said the lawyers had no comment on the substance of the closed session.

As of Thursday, the medical staff counted 33 of the 166 captives (19.8 percent) as hunger strikers, with 11 being fed nutritional supplements through tubes and three hospitalized, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, spokesman for the detention center.

At no time did guards deny any captive bottled water, he added, pointing to the affidavit by the colonel in charge of the prison camps’ soldiers guards.

“The water from the sinks originates from the base desalinization plant and is the same water that runs throughout the entire base at Guantánamo, and is available for consumption by all military personnel, civilians and their dependants at the base,” Bogdan wrote.

Durand also rejected captive claims that the guard force had fiddled with the air conditioning in the communal prison camp, Camp 6. If any of the communal captives feel cold, he added, they have 24-hour access to an outdoor recreation yard at the camp, where they can warm up. Temperatures in southeast Cuba this time of year reach the high 80s.

Defense lawyers presented the federal judge with affidavits that appeared to contradict the prison camp’s account, including one from a retired Army brigadier general, psychiatrist Stephen Xenakis that argued drinking tap water inside the detention center presented health hazards.

“Advising hunger-striking detainees at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility to drink water from the faucet predisposes them up to gastrointestinal infections and a quick demise,” wrote Xenakis, who has traveled to Guantánamo on several occasions to meet captives and consult with both civilian and military defense lawyers.

Also, former Navy corpsman Daniel Lakemacher, 26, who was assigned to Guantánamo in 2007 and 2008, submitted a sworn statement to the court saying,. “Based on my observations, it was commonly understood that drinking the faucet water would not be healthy.”

“During my service at the Guantánamo prison,” Lakemacher wrote, “I observed that all military and non-military staff working within the prison facility who drank water, drank exclusively bottled water and never tap water.”

McClatchy Newspapers reporter Emma Kantrowitz contributed to this report from Washington D.C.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Accused USS Cole bomber Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi, shown at left in a photo before his capture by the CIA in 2002 and by sketch artist Janet Hamlin during a 2011 arraignment at Guántanamo.

    Guantanamo

    Court: Poland violated human rights in CIA case

    Europe's top human rights court ruled Thursday that Poland violated the rights of two terror suspects by allowing the CIA to secretly imprison them on Polish soil from 2002-2003 and facilitating the conditions under which they were subject to torture.

  •  
Algerian Djamel Ameziane, a 42-year-old ethnic Berber, has been approved for release but wants to go to Canada, or another country, rather than the nation he fled in 1992. His lawyers have chosen Canada because he lived there for five years, and filed a failed application for political asylum. From Canada he went to Afghanistan, where he was captured in the U.S. invasion.

    IN THE COURTS

    Ex-Guantánamo detainee can’t get his money back

    Federal judge concludes a former Guantánamo detainee may no longer be a threat, but his money is.

  •  
The Kremlin.

    Russia bans congressman, 12 other Americans

    Russia has placed a U.S. lawmaker and 12 other people connected with the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq on its list of those banned from entering the country.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category