After I noticed that 34 Jan. 6 defendants signed a handwritten letter asking to be transferred from a Washington, D.C., jail to the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I raised an eyebrow like everybody else. The letter was submitted in courtroom Friday and began trending on Twitter on Monday.
I’ve represented Guantanamo Bay detainees for nearly a decade. The rosy image painted in that handwritten letter bears no resemblance to the truth of Guantanamo Bay.
Whereas the Jan. 6 defendants are unsuitable about situations at Guantanamo Bay, they aren’t unsuitable about their very own jail circumstances.
One early main controversy was attributable to guards’ desecrating Qurans — hardly “being respectful of non secular necessities,” because the defendants wrote. Guantanamo Bay additionally doesn’t have the “facilities for train/leisure” the lads suppose it has; I and different legal professionals have fought — and misplaced, for now — a battle to permit them to proceed creating and publicly sharing their paintings as a type of remedy for the torture they suffered at U.S. arms.
Removed from getting access to “top-notch medical care,” the lads don’t have any significant care for his or her critical medical situations, many stemming from that torture. It took years of lawsuits to get an MRI machine right down to Guantanamo Bay, the place it will definitely broke completely — however not earlier than it confirmed certainly one of my purchasers’ mind harm from his CIA beatings.
However whereas the Jan. 6 defendants are unsuitable about situations at Guantanamo Bay, they aren’t unsuitable about their very own jail circumstances. Inhumane situations at Guantanamo Bay are at the least partly an extension of jail tradition within the U.S. The Washington jail the place the Jan. 6 defendants are being held was the topic of a memo from the U.S. Marshals Service final 12 months, which described the denial of meals and water “for punitive causes” and “massive quantities of standing human sewage.”
These points have all been imported to Guantanamo Bay at varied factors over 20 years. And so has bodily violence. Omar Deghayes has spoken about dropping a watch after guards assaulted him. Navy investigators uncovered that Mohammed al-Qahtani was pressured to put on a bra and bark like a canine. When my purchasers Emad Hassan, Mohammed Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani, Abu Wa’el Dhiab and Samir Moqbel protested their detention with a starvation strike, they have been brutally force-fed whereas immobilized in restraint chairs. The previous few years have seen leaking sewage and failing infrastructure within the camp the place my shopper Ammar al Baluchi was held, creating unsanitary situations in occasions of Covid-19.
There have been no experiences that the Jan. 6 defendants are being handled worse than different inmates on the Washington jail, and the situations there should not distinctive amongst U.S. amenities. Rikers Island in New York, for instance, has lengthy been recognized for horrific situations. It made headlines as soon as once more final 12 months for having, in keeping with a New York Occasions report, “sure areas coated in rubbish and urine.”
It is a results of overcrowding and understaffing — and, effectively, searing indifference to the well-being of the inmates. The solitary confinement decried by the Jan. 6 defendants on web page 4 of their letter? Households and supporters of inmates on Rikers have claimed that their family members have been locked up in solitary confinement for prolonged durations of time in violation of the state’s HALT Act, which was signed into legislation final 12 months.
In actual fact, the widespread use of solitary confinement and different punitive situations in U.S. prisons so alarmed Juan Méndez, who served because the United Nations Particular Rapporteur on Torture (an impartial torture knowledgeable) from 2010 to 2016, that he publicly criticized the nation. Then the U.S. wouldn’t grant him entry to examine state prisons. Méndez accused the U.S. of delaying his evaluate of its amenities. The U.S. authorities has additionally barred U.N. particular rapporteurs from inspections at Guantanamo Bay because it opened in 2002.
Even with all of this, many Individuals might not discover the brutality inflicted by the federal government. Race is a significant component. Black Individuals are imprisoned at practically 5 occasions the speed of white Individuals in state prisons. Equally, the lads tortured by the U.S. authorities and now languishing in harsh situations with out medical care at Guantanamo Bay are completely nonwhite Muslims. Systematic racism is dependent upon apathy towards the “otherized” minority.
It ought to alarm us that the situations on the Washington jail, the place principally Black individuals are imprisoned, make nationwide headlines solely when predominantly white prisoners complain concerning the situations there (and misguidedly ask for transfers to the one place synonymous with torture all over the world). And maybe if the detainees have been all white males from Western nations, Guantanamo Bay would have been closed ages in the past — if it had ever been opened within the first place.
However allyship can take many kinds, and elementary human rights apply equally to these charged with conspiracy, like among the Jan. 6 defendants, as these charged with nothing in any respect, like a lot of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. If the Jan. 6 defendants assist us power the U.S. authorities to reform our ugly tradition of inhumane imprisonment, then I welcome their voices on this essential situation and hope for actual change of their situations as my colleagues and I work for actual change for the lads at Guantanamo Bay.
Let’s simply all agree that switch to Guantanamo Bay is not any answer.