In their daily lives, Guantanamo detainees see little movement. They’re shuffled from cell block to cell block, into recreation yards, and to and from legal meetings. Always shackled, and always, evidently, escorted by male guards.
But some female soldiers are challenging the procedure with gender-discrimination complaints.
The male-only practice was done out of respect for the prisoners’ religious and cultural beliefs, that women outside of the family shouldn’t touch them. In October, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a detainee currently on trial, complained after being shackled by a female guard. He claimed it was the first time since his 2007 detention that he was not escorted by a male guard.
A military judge, likely weary of accusations of religious intolerance in the wake of the Senate’s Torture Report, threw up his hands. In November, Navy Capt. J.K. Waits announced a decision which forbid women from escorting prisoners to and from attorney-client meetings.
After Waits’ decision, two complaints were filed with the Defense Department’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, claiming sexual discrimination because the decision barred women from performing jobs based purely on their gender.
Hadi’s defense attorneys argued that the policy had been in place for years, and that authorities had only recently brought in female guards as a way to humiliate prisoners.
“This was a lawful judicial order…” Waits said. “By its nature, the outcome of litigation is that some people’s positions are advanced and others are not. In this instance, one or more women guards assigned to the Joint Task Force apparently believe that their interests have been harmed or set back in some way.”
“This is not a novel phenomenon for me or any other judge,” he added.
A similar injunction has been placed by Army judge Col. James L. Pohl, preventing female guards from handling the alleged 9/11 architect, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. This decision is also facing sexual discrimination complaints.
Hadi stands accused of organizing terrorist attacks on coalition targets in Afghanistan and faces life in prison if convicted.