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Guantanamo: Covid-19 cases rise to one-third of detainee population, report says

Two detainees in Camp Five and 10 in Camp Six have contracted the virus, The New York Times reports
Middle East Eye reported last year that several detainees contracted Covid-19.
Middle East Eye reported last year that several detainees contracted Covid-19 (AFP/File photo)

The number of Covid-19 cases among detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison has grown to a third of the overall prisoner population, The New York Times has reported, citing a US official.

The newspaper reported that two of the detainees who tested positive for the virus were identified. One was Abu Zubaydah, one of the first detainees to be tortured under the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" programme.

The other was Guled Hassan Duran, a Somali citizen who has been detained without charge at Guantanamo since 2006. Both have been placed in Camp Five, a maximum security prison that houses men who were held in the CIA black sites and brought to Guantanamo in 2006 and 2007.

Guantanamo Bay: Several detainees test positive for Covid-19
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At least 10 others, according to The New York Times, who contracted the virus are based in Camp Six, a medium-security facility where there is a common space for detainees to have meals, prayer and recreational activities.

The newspaper reported last week that Abu Zubaydah had contracted the virus and all legal meetings were cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Pentagon declined to confirm to The New York Times that the figure had risen to "more than a dozen" of the prisoners. Pentagon officials also declined to describe the care that prison authorities were providing or say whether or not any of the ill prisoners had been given the antiviral drug Paxlovid.

Middle East Eye reached out to the Department of Defence for comment on this report but had not received a response by the time of publication.

Aging detainee population

Last year, Middle East Eye reported there was an outbreak of the coronavirus in the detention centre's Camp Six, with several detainees contracting the virus.

Camp Six is one of Guantanamo Bay's newer buildings, constructed in 2006, and houses detainees designated "low-value" and who have never been charged with a crime.

The $37m prison unit was originally designed as a medium-security facility with communal eating and recreation areas. However, the communal eating area was closed off and recreation areas were turned into individual cages. 

For years, rights organisations and civil society groups have criticised the US government for the lack of medical facilities to properly treat detainees in the prison.

A 2019 report by The Center for Victims of Torture and Physicians for Human Rights found that detainees are subject to medical neglect, and medical equipment and expertise available on-site are "increasingly insufficient to address detainees' health needs".

There are currently 35 men being held at Guantanamo Bay, 20 of whom have been approved for transfer, while three are in indefinite detention. Ten are awaiting trial and two have been convicted, including Majid Khan, who has finished his sentence and is in need of a country to be transferred to.

Since Biden has come into office, his administration has released four detainees. During former President Donald Trump's four years in office, only one man - a Saudi citizen who was cleared under the Obama administration - was released.

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