THE COMMITTEE'S VISIT
22. Having had a full day of very detailed discussions
in Washington DC, the group arrived at Guantánamo Bay at
about 09.30 on 20 September and departed at about 16.30. Members
were briefed on the role of the US Naval Base en route from
the airstrip to the Joint Task Force Headquarters. At the Headquarters,
Admiral Harris and other JTF personnel gave the group a presentation
and answered questions. The issues we discussed are considered
in detail later in this Report. Those of us who went on the visit
were impressed by the openness of Admiral Harris and his team,
and by their willingness both to answer our questions and to engage
in frank discussion of the issues.
23. Before lunch, we viewed what we were told was
a typical day's rations for a detainee. Several times during the
visit, we were informed that all detainees are offered 4,200 calories
of Halal food daily and that most have put on weight since
arriving at Guantánamo. We were told that some are clinically
obese. All the camps
have exercise facilities, although these vary greatly in size,
according to the category of prisoner. Individual cells are too
small to provide detainees with much scope for vigorous exercise.
24. The group then visited Camp Delta. Although all
detainees in Camps I to III in Camp Delta are classified to varying
degrees as 'non-compliant', some have been granted certain privileges.
Fully non-compliant detainees are issued with orange clothing
and a minimum of other items; these include sandals, basic bedding,
a prayer cap, a prayer mat and a copy of the Quran. The group
also saw 'suicide smocks', which are made of material which breaks
when pressure is applied and are used, we were told, to prevent
detainees from harming themselves. Detainees may by compliant
behaviour earn privileges; these include being issued with beige
clothing, more bedding, a traditional Islamic prayer rug, ear
plugs and personal sanitary items. The detainees are under constant
surveillance and electric lighting is on permanently.
25. The Camp is split into six sub-camps, numbered
I to VI. Camps I to III date from 2002 and hold high-security
prisoners. We went into Camp I, which was closed at the time of
the visit for repairs. We were told that detainees had discovered
they could remove part of the plumbing system in each cell to
fashion weapons and that these had been used to attack guards;
the plumbing was therefore being replaced.
26. Camps I to III are of predominantly wire cage
construction, but with concrete floors, hard roofs and protection
from the elements. Each block houses up to 48 detainees, in two
rows of 24 cells. At the end of each block are showering and basic
exercise facilities. The cells are small, about 2 metres by 1.5
metres. They are equipped with a fixed bunk and basic sanitation.
An arrow set into each bunk points to Mecca.
27. At the end of the block visited by the group
was a recreation area, with four shower cubicles and a number
of exercise yards, some containing basic gym machinery. Each yard
is enclosed by wire. In several places, camouflage netting has
been arranged to provide a little shade. Two further wire fences,
to one of which heavy-duty fabric has been attached to block any
view, mark the perimeter of the camp. Watch towers stand in the
strip between the two fences.
28. The group next visited Camp IV, which is classed
as medium-security and houses 'compliant' detainees. The camp
is a series of single-storey blocks arranged around an exercise
area. Detainees are accommodated in dormitories with up to ten
conventional beds and mattresses; lights are dimmed at night.
They eat and pray communally and are permitted to wear white clothing.
Among the additional items they are issued with are board games;
they also have access to more extensive physical recreation areas,
including soccer, volleyball and basketball pitches, as well as
table tennis and gym equipment; television is sometimes available.
There are several outdoor association areas in this camp; these
have shade, benches and tables. At the time of our visit, detainees
appeared to have free access to these areas and the dormitories
appeared to be unlocked. However, fewer than one in ten detainees
were accommodated in Camp IV at the time of our visit.
29. Camp V is a maximum-security block of more conventional
construction, being based on the 'Indiana model' prison. It was
opened in 2004. About 100 prisoners are housed in four, two-storey
wings. Cells are slightly larger than those in Camps I to III
and the sanitation is less basic. All walls, floors and doors
are of solid construction, which greatly reduces the scope for
detainees to converse without being overheard. Guards look into
each cell every few minutes, and also monitor them using cameras.
Prisoners may summon a guard by using a microphone built into
each cell, which communicates directly with the control room.
Some cells are equipped for disabled detainees; a large number
of those held at Guantánamo have disabilities, mostly as
a result of losing a limb in an explosion or in combat.
30. This camp also houses the interrogation facilities.
The group witnessed by closed-circuit television an interrogation
being conducted. The detainee, wearing a beige uniform which indicated
he was compliant to a degree, was seated on an upholstered chair.
His hands were free, but one ankle was secured to a metal ring
set into the floor and he was wearing a heavy belt, which is used
to restrain detainees when they are moved between their cells
and other rooms. A soft drink was next to him. We were told that
the detainee was free to ask for food and drink to be sent in
and that he was also free to end the interview at any time.
31. The group visited an interrogation room. The
furniture was plusher than the type depicted in photographs available
on the internet.
The room was also equipped with a table, two ceiling-mounted video
cameras, a television set and a DVD player. There is a panic button
to summon help if the interviewer feels threatened.
32. Outside Camp V, there are individual recreation
pens, each measuring ten by eighteen feet. Prisoners held in Camp
V are not allowed to associate and at the time of our visit they
were conducting shouted conversations from their cells.
33. Camp VI, which we were told cost $37 million
to build, opened at the end of 2006. Like Camp V, it is based
on a US penitentiary, in this case the 'Michigan model'; however,
unlike Camp V, it was designed as a medium-security facility.
It has since been reconfigured for use as a maximum-security block
and it was clear when we visited that this has required substantial
additional work. The camp has eight two-storey wings or 'pods'
accommodating about 22 prisoners each, opening onto full-height
association areas. A high-tech central monitoring and control
room makes use of the many remote-control cameras to supervise
the pods using minimum numbers of guards. The intention is to
close Camps I to III once Camp VI is fully open, and after more
of those eligible for release or transfer have left.
34. Many contemporary articles about Guantánamo
continue to refer mistakenly to the entire existing facility as
'Camp X-Ray'. Photographs and film of detainees at Camp X-Ray
are also regularly used in media coverage of stories about Guantánamo
Bay. However, as we saw for ourselves, Camp X-Ray is no longer
used for housing detainees and has not been so used since 2002.
Detainees are now housed in much more modern facilities.
35. The group visited the detention hospital at Camp
Delta. Most of the 100 medical staff are drawn from US Naval units
and their average tour of duty is six months. Their mission was
described to us as "to provide the best possible care for
our detainees." Initially, medical staff dealt with many
battlefield injuries as the detainees arrived from Afghanistan.
Now, chronic conditions prevail over the acute. Typical complaints
presented by detainees are gastro-enteric, muscular-skeletal or
ear, nose and throat. Much dental work is carried out. There is
also a clinic, in a separate building, which receives about 300
36. The hospital has two wards, each with nine beds,
and two single-bed rooms for infectious cases. About 100 x-ray
examinations are made each month, mostly for routine reasons such
as screening for tuberculosis. The operating theatre has carried
out 150 procedures.
37. Next, the group visited the Behavioural Health
Unit (BHU). This provides in- and out-patient services for psychiatric
patients. The percentage of detainees in Guantánamo exhibiting
psychiatric problems is comparable to that in the US prison population
as a whole. About one fifth of the detainees have had a diagnosis
of one or more of a variety of psychiatric conditions, but not
all require treatment. Four percent of detainees receive medication
for a psychiatric condition.
38. The Unit also assesses hunger strikers to discover
their motivation. However, there are 'firewalls' between the Unit
and the rest of the Joint Task Force. For example, patient confidentiality
can be broken only in the case of overriding need, to prevent
loss of life. A separate team of psychiatriststhe behavioural
science consultation team, referred to by the acronym 'biscit'monitors
interrogations at Camp V. We were told that it would not be appropriate
for the BHU staff to confuse their patient care role by becoming
involved in the interrogation process.
39. In our view, the full day spent at Guantánamo
by seven of us was an invaluable opportunity to witness at first
hand the conditions which prevail there, and to ask questions
of some of those directly involved in the detention, interrogation
or care of the prisoners. The JTF personnel whom we met were very
open and gave full answers to our many questions. We do not suppose
that we were able to see everything, but we are satisfied with
the access that we were given, which we were told was equal to
that given to members of the United States Congress.