Genital searches of Guantanamo inmates necessary, court told
Searching genital areas of inmates at US prison at Guantanamo Bay is necessary to maintain security at a facility holding "enemy combatants," a government lawyer told an appeals hearing in Washington.
Washington: Searching the genital areas of inmates at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay is necessary to maintain security at a facility holding "enemy combatants," a government lawyer told an appeals hearing in Washington.
Attorney Edward Himmelfarb said yesterday the thorough examinations of prisoners` genital areas were similar to searches undertaken by airport screeners.
Himmelfarb insisted "no private area is ever exposed" during the searches, as the government sought to downplay the extent of examinations which human rights lawyers have decried as "invasive, humiliating and degrading."
"It`s like a TSA search at the airport ... It`s not as bad as it sounds," Himmelfarb said, adding that searches were conducted "with the flat hand, the way TSA does."
The searches were justified because Guantanamo is "a military facility ... With enemy combatants," he said.
A judge in July ruled in favour of Guantanamo detainees who had challenged the body search protocols at the base.
In a scathing ruling, Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with rights lawyers who argued the searches were "religiously and culturally abhorrent" for Muslim prisoners, which had the effect of deterring meetings between inmates and their legal representatives.
Lamberth ordered an immediate halt to the searches, but the Court of Appeals accepted a government request to maintain the procedures until a definitive ruling on their legality was made.
One of the three judges at yesterday`s appeal hearing, Thomas Griffith, said the searches seemed to be "pretty provocative and offensive for detainees," while another judge on the panel, Merrick Garland, noted the objections were "religious-based."
The detainees` attorney William Livingston said the search procedure was unjustified given the remote and inaccessible location of the Guantanamo prison, situated at a US military facility in Cuba.
"This is not a Baltimore city jail. This is a prison off-shore... (detainees have) no visitor at all other than their lawyers and the International Red Cross," Livingston said.
"Their cells are searched all the time, they`re shackled, escorted,... There`s very little risk of contraband... The impact on the counsel access is very substantial."
Lawyers have said inmates have repeatedly declined to meet their attorneys rather than be subjected to the searches, which are also carried out whenever they make telephone calls, which take place outside the detention wings where they are held.
Livingston said the motive of the search protocol, set up by camp commander Colonel John Bogdan, "is not security but it is to deter access" to defence counsel.