December 28, 2011
The new commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison is seeking to impose significant restrictions on the communications allowed between the lawyers and inmates at the US military base in Cuba.
The Pentagon-appointed lawyers representing five of the prisoners accused of helping to organize the September 11 attacks say the new rules would violate the attorney-client privilege and legal ethics, and deprive the prisoners of their constitutional right to counsel.
“This requirement, as a precursor to engaging in client communications, interferes with the attorney-client relationship, compels counsel to violate ethical obligations, and therefore renders it impossible for counsel to effectively represent our clients,” the lawyers wrote in a memo.
The proposed changes, contained in a 27-page draft order, have not yet been signed by the commander.
The lawyers received the draft order from the commander, Navy rear Adm. David Woods, on December 22 and were told to sign an agreement to abide by the rules within 48 hours.
Under the new rules, a “privilege team,” which includes the Department of Defense and law enforcement officials, would conduct a security review of all communications between the lawyers in Washington and the prisoners at the military base in the southeastern corner of Cuba.
The lawyers, however, argue that such measure is unnecessary and overly intrusive, since they all have security clearances and are aware of not releasing classified information.
The US detainment facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was established in 2002 by the Bush administration. Almost 800 detainees have been brought to the prison camp since October 7, 2001, when Washington began the war on Afghanistan.
The International Red Cross inspectors and the released detainees alike have described various acts of torture, including extensive use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, beatings and confinement in small, cold cells.
According to Amnesty International, of the 173 men currently detained at Guantanamo Bay only three had been convicted under a military commission system, “which failed to meet international fair trial standards.”