A group of military lawyers who work at the Guantánamo Bay prison filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Department of Defense, saying they have been forced to live and work in facilities with dangerous levels of known carcinogens for years.
They charge that the U.S. Navy failed to properly investigate health hazards following reports of unusually high cancer cases among otherwise young and healthy personnel at Camp Justice, the war court complex where legal teams work on the cases of war-on-terror detainees.
The complaint cites the Navy’s “unreasonable delay” in assessing known environmental hazards such as mercury and formaldehyde, and its “arbitrary and capricious determination that … personnel must live and work in contaminated areas of Camp Justice before a proper investigation and appropriate remediation are completed.”
“This really is having a human level impact on people who have signed up to do this work,” said Daniel Small, a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, which is working on the Guantanamo lawyers’ case without charge. “These are soldiers, sailors, Marines who have signed up to do some of the hardest legal work that exists in my opinion in the Department of Defense, and these people deserve better,” he said. “We should be making sure that we are protecting them, taking care of these soldiers who have signed up to a fairly thankless task.”
The attorneys are asking the Department of Defense to complete the testing and do a proper risk assessment that applies the required health standards. In the meantime, they are asking to live in alternative housing, which they say is abundantly available.
“Our understanding so far is that they have not prioritized this and would rather make hard housing available to other people who come to the base on a temporary basis, contractors and others like that, rather than make a priority the health of the people they’re requiring to be at Camp Justice to defend the detainees,” Small said.
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