The military imposed a new ban Wednesday at the Guantanamo Bay naval base forbidding food at meetings between prisoners and their lawyers. A staple of building lawyer-client relationships, outside food is no longer permitted at legal conferences for the first time in a decade, the Miami Herald reported.
The memorandum by Rear Admiral K.J. Cozad of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo and obtained by the Miami Herald claims “these modifications address health, safety and security concerns applicable to all Detainee meetings.” Lawyers, however, have argued that the ability to bring in outside food is crucial to forming trust with their clients.
Navy Reserve Commander Suzanne Lachelier, who brought Lebanese and Afghan food from Washington while representing Guantanamo detainees, told the Miami Herald that “the main point was to allow the ‘sharing of bread,’ whatever that bread was.” Attorney Alka Pradhan, who brought Egg McMuffins and traditional Middle Eastern sweets to meetings with inmates, described the new rule as “quite tragic for the client” because “sometimes the food we bring is the only thing from the outside world they’ve seen in months and they really look forward to it.”
With an unknown number of Guantanamo inmates currently participating in a long-term hunger strike, the new ban on food also hinders their access to alternative sources of nutrition. For example, lawyers for hunger striker Abu Wa’el Dhiab brought fruit juice to their meetings to give him strength.
The meals were “a bit of compensation for the hassles of being shackled and stuffed into a van to meet with your lawyers in a tin shed in Camp Echo when the litigation isn’t really going anywhere," Shane Kadidal, a senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said to the Miami Herald.
As well as forbidding food, Cozad’s May 14th memo also bans sleeping during legal conferences. “If guard force personnel observe any person sleeping during a meeting, the guard force will issue a warning,” the memo commands. “If anyone is observed sleeping after a warning has been issued, the meeting will be terminated.”
Sleep deprivation has previously been used as part of CIA interrogation techniques, the Associated Press has reported. The new measures further solidify the control of prison officials over the lives of inmates.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda have used Guantanamo Bay and in particular, the hunger strikes at the prison, for jihadist recruitment and propaganda by depicting U.S. human rights violations, The Atlantic has reported.