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Federal Judge Stops Genital Searches in Guantanamo

On Thursday, Royce Lambert, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington issued a 35-page opinion criticizing genital searches of prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay prison facilities, and ordered to use old search methods consisting of grasping the waistband and shaking a detainee’s trousers, instead of grasping genitals.

Detainees had complained to the court that recently the guards had started touching and holding the genitals of detainees and touching and probing anal areas during their searches. The searches were made in those cases where the detainees wanted to meet their lawyers. Some detainees gave up meeting lawyers because they refused to undergo genital searches.

While the government argued that detainees might be hiding things in their genital areas, the judge observed that repeated instances of government actions attempting to deter detainee access to lawyers “substantially increase the likelihood that its justification is mere pretext and that the new searches represent an ‘exaggerated response’ to its legitimate interest in security of the detention facility.”

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Besides strictly ordering to end the genital searches, the court ordered the prison commanders to allow detainees weakened by their hunger strike, or those having a medical condition making travel difficult, to meet lawyers at the housing camp. Over 100 of the 166 prisoners in Guantanamo are on a hunger strike for the last four months to protest their long detention and uncertain terms of detention without conviction on suspected crimes.

The judge wrote, “As petitioners’ counsel argued, the choice between submitting to a search procedure that is religiously and culturally abhorrent or forgoing counsel effectively presents no choice for devout Muslims like petitioners.”

Lamberth also cited President Obama’s speech in May, who quoted Judge William Young made during sentencing of a criminal, “The way we treat you … is the measure of our own liberties.” The court observed: “Judge Young’s comment is equally apt when applied to the detainees in Guantanamo,” as it was apt in the sentencing of shoe-bomber Richard Reid.

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