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9/11 lawyer to challenge conditions in secret Gitmo camp

Published time: August 19, 2013 16:26
Camp Delta at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on August 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Camp Delta at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on August 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)

A defense lawyer for one of the Guantanamo inmates charged in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks claims that the prison camp is in violation of basic human rights required by the Geneva Conventions, and plans to file a motion challenging the conditions.

“The conditions of confinement do not meet the standards for preventative detention under the laws of war,” Pentagon defense attorney James Connell said after gaining access to a top-secret section of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, according to the Associated Press.

Connell spent 12 hours inside Camp 7, a secret compound whose location within Guantanamo remains classified. This camp holds “high-value” detainees, including the men charged in the Sept. 11 attacks. Connell was prevented from seeing how he was transported to Camp 7, and is also prohibited from speaking about what he saw. Together with two experts, the Pentagon attorney spoke with his client, Ammar al Baluchi, the nephew of the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Connell said he took hundreds of photos of the top-secret camp, which are now in the hands of intelligence officials. The attorney is not allowed to discuss specifically what he witnessed, but said he saw “a number of things that concerned us” and plans to file a motion with the prison commander. If the commander refuses to comply, he said he would file a second motion with the chief war court judge.

The lawyer said the conditions of confinement amount to pretrial punishment, which military regulations prohibit. Pretrial punishments can sometimes lead to a reduced sentence.

If Camp 7 is indeed found to be in violation of the laws drawn up at the Geneva Conventions, it would put the Pentagon into an uncomfortable position. In 2009, a Pentagon review ordered by President Barack Obama concluded that Gitmo prisoners were being treated humanely, in accordance with the standards demanded by the Geneva Conventions. However the US has already come under scrutiny this summer for force-feeding inmates during the holy month of Ramadan, which many considered a violation of the rights ensured by the conventions.

Follow RT's timeline of the Gitmo hunger strike

In response to Connell’s comments, chief war crimes prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martin said that he would not comment on whether problems at the facility would delay the trial, but denied any responsibility, the Miami Herald reports.

“We take very seriously humane standards,” he said. “I’m not responsible for the facility.”

Spokesmen for the prison were prohibited from discussing the matter.

Camp 7 was opened in 2006 to hold 14 prisoners that were being held and interrogated overseas by the CIA. The movie “Zero Dark Thirty” shows Baluchi’s character being forced to wear a dog collar, subjected to waterboarding, strung up with rope, and stuffed into a coffin-like box. The CIA has admitted that it used such methods on other prisoners, but refused to say whether or not they were used on Baluchi.  The top-secret facility known as Camp 7 isolates “high-value” prisoners from others at Guantanamo, and prohibits them from making any phone calls to their families.

A pretrial hearing for al Baluchi and the four other men charged in the 9/11 attacks, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, begins on Monday.