At least four Prisoners held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay have contracted Covid-19, detainees’ legal groups told Olx Praca. This is the first Covid outbreak in a maximum security prison.
The outbreak took place in the sixth camp, a communal block built by in 2006 year which houses low-value prisoners who have never been charged with any crime. According to lawyers, the detainees are now living under tougher restrictions.
“We are concerned because there is no clarity about the conditions in which they live.”
“We are concerned that there is no clarity about the conditions in which they live,” said Mansour Adaifi, a former prisoner in prison, acting as coordinator of the Guantanamo project for the London-based human rights group CAGE. “Are they being treated? How dangerous is their infection? Were they taken to the hospital? Nine brothers died at Guantanamo – two, I can tell you, died of medical negligence.
The Covid outbreak was confirmed by two sources who spoke to Olx Praca, one of whom requested anonymity to protect people held in prison from retaliation, and a social media post by the detainee’s sister. According to one source, at least one detainee tested positive more than a week ago. (The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
“We were saddened by the news that several brothers in Guantanamo Bay have contracted the coronavirus,” the sister of one of the detainees wrote on Facebook in Arabic.
Adaifi, ex-prisoner and author of memoirsDon’t forget us here”, described the camp where the outbreak occurred: “There are no windows in the sixth camp, except for small cracks of light near the high ceilings. You feel like you are in a deep hole. It’s a building within a building.”
Built by a subsidiary of Halliburton and originally used for solitary confinement, Camp Six is now used for general living. Adaifi said that as soon as the common areas are closed, the cells become isolated from each other, and communication is possible only through shouting. “It’s like solitary confinement,” he said. “The sixth camp is really terrible. Horrible.”
“It’s not just Covid that worries me, but in general,” Beth Jacob, a lawyer who works with Guantanamo Bay inmates, said of the general health of her five clients in prison. Two of the men she represents have contracted Covid, she said.
Jacob said the history of brutality faced by Guantanamo detainees could be contributing to their declining health. “They are in poor health due to the conditions they are kept in,” she said. “My guys were both detained by the CIA, one for a year, the other for two years. It wasn’t gentle. It was a long time ago, but the physical damage still persists.”
In 2002, after the September 11 attacks, a POW camp was opened at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to hold suspected members of the “war on terror”. Since then, about 800 men and boys have passed through the prison. He became notorious for torture, extrajudicial detention, and the treatment of prisoners.
The number of detainees has fallen in recent years as the men, the vast majority of whom have never been charged, have been repatriated, released to third countries or died in custody. To date, 37 people remain imprisoned in the camp, 25 of whom are considered low-risk prisoners, and ten of whom are on active military commission files.
Although all detainees at Guantanamo Bay were vaccinated against the coronavirus, it is not known how many doses they received.