Possible cancer uptick at Gitmo investigated

Possible cancer uptick at Gitmo investigated
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The Navy is investigating complaints about a heightened risk of cancer at part of the military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The reported uptick in cancer diagnoses is among people working on trials of detainees at the military detention facility — not the detainees themselves — but could prompt the evacuation of part of the U.S. base.

“The Department of Defense is aware of concerns about possible carcinogens around the DoD Military Commissions site located at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay,” the Navy said in a statement on Tuesday. 

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“The health and well-being of all personnel living and working on NS Guantanamo Bay is important to us and we take any health concerns very seriously,” it added. “Working together with the Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center and other environmental and health officials, Navy Region Southeast is looking into this to identify whatever steps may be necessary to address these concerns.”

The investigation was prompted by a complaint reportedly filed with the Defense Department’s inspector general two weeks ago.

A spokesperson with the Defense Department’s watchdog office said that it could not comment on any investigations or complaints.  

According to reports, however, that complaint alleged that at least seven civilians and members of the military working on trials have been diagnosed with cancer. According to Reuters, the complaint alleged that the patients may have been exposed to cancer-causing materials while living and working in a portion of the base that was formerly used to dispose of jet fuel, or may have been exposed to substances such as asbestos. 

The Miami Herald has compiled a list of nine people who have developed cancer since the 2008 development of Camp Justice, the portion of the naval base where military commissions are held. 

The complaint reportedly asked for the military to evacuate the Guantanamo court facilities and test the base for the presence of carcinogens. 

News of the investigation comes after the death of Navy Lt. Commander Bill Kuebler, a former defense lawyer for ex-Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen. Kuebler died earlier this month of cancer at the age of 44.

If the presence of carcinogens is confirmed, the revelation could throw an additional wrench into the ongoing trials, which have been hampered with delays for years.

There are currently 116 detainees at the base, 52 of whom have been cleared to be transferred to other countries or released.

Closing the detention facility was a campaign promise of President Obama’s, and the White House has recently unveiled a more concrete plan to close it and remove those detainees deemed “too dangerous to release” to either U.S. military prisons or supermax security facilities.