By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 23, 2009 - The detention facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, meet all standards of humane treatment and are in compliance with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the vice chief of naval operations said today. Navy Adm. Patrick Walsh was chosen by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to head a team to review and report on the facilities at Guantanamo as part of an executive order President Barack Obama issued Jan. 22.
The review team conducted more than 100 interviews with Joint Task Force Guantanamo personnel over 13 days of investigation in Cuba . The team conducted multiple announced and unannounced inspections of all camps, reviewed paperwork and observed many aspects of daily operations, Walsh said.
"Collectively, we talked to a number of detainees and observed daily activities, including [use of feeding tubes] and interrogations," Walsh said during a Pentagon news conference.
The team looked at shelter, clothing, food and water, practice of religion, recreation, the detainee discipline system, protections against violence, sensory deprivation and humiliation, human-to-human contact, health care, interrogation and access to attorneys and outside entities. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention prohibits violence to life and person, taking of hostages, outrages upon personal dignity and passing of sentences without judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court.
"From our review, it was apparent that the chain of command responsible for the detention mission at Guantanamo consistently seeks to go beyond the minimum standard in complying with Common Article 3," he said. "We found that the chain of command endeavors to enhance conditions in a manner as humane as possible, consistent with security concerns."
The team also recommended ways to improve conditions at the detention facilities. While Obama wants the facility closed by next year, until it does close, conditions must meet all humane standards, Walsh said.
"We do not intend to suggest that these recommendations are items that the department must pursue to satisfy Common Article 3," he said. "Rather, they are items that we view as consistent with the approach of the chain of command to continually enhance conditions of detention."
Socialization, or interaction among detainees, is important for the detainees because of the length of time they have been detained, he said. In certain camps, more socialization is needed. The team called for more "human-to-human contact, recreation opportunities with several detainees together, intellectual stimulation and group prayer," the admiral said.
The review team recommended better health care, and the task force leaders appreciate the role health care plays at the facility, Walsh said.
Finally, as long as the facility remains open, it must have the requisite resources, the admiral told reporters.
"The most significant activity in this regard involves the continued support for camp improvement projects currently under way that affect the ability to provide socialization opportunities," he said. "Of significant concern is that the department continued to properly resource Guantanamo until every detainee departs."