By Debbie Gregory.
The U.S. Navy is investigating a complaint that could result in the evacuation of civilian and military lawyers from parts of Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. The complaint comes on the heels of reports the war court compound at the remote base was linked to seven cases of cancer.
The complaint was filed last month by a Navy Reserves attorney who had previously worked on a Guantanamo war court case. The complaint listed the names of seven people, both military and civilian, but not all lawyers, who had had worked at the war court compound and been diagnosed with cancer in recent years.
“The Department of Defense is aware of concerns about possible carcinogens around the Department of Defense Military Commissions site,” said base spokeswoman Kelly Wirfel. ”
The issue has been causing anxiety among lawyers who work with the war-on-terror detainees kept in prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Nine individuals suffered from a range of cancers, including lymphoma, brain, appendix and colon. Three of those stricken with cancer, aged 35 to 52, have died in the past 13 months. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, a former Guantanamo lawyer, died of cancer on July 17. He was 44.
Attorneys who have worked at the crude compound rife with posted warnings against drinking the water have long been concerned about health conditions there. It is built atop an abandoned airstrip and includes buildings that were closed down before the Pentagon set up the detention center in 2002.
“We have been telling our chain of command for years that we don’t feel safe living and working in the temporary facilities the government has erected for military commissions,” said air force captain Michael Schwartz, a military defense lawyer who has worked on Guantanamo Bay for years.
A spokesperson for the Defense Department Inspector General’s office said the office could not confirm or deny any investigations or complaints. The Centers for Disease Control likewise refused to comment on whether it was involved in the case, and instead referred all questions to the Department of the Navy.
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Guantánamo Bay Cancer Scare: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory