On April 11, 2017, a group of defense lawyers who represent a detainee in the military commission proceedings at Guantánamo Bay filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense, the Navy and the Convening Authority, claiming that military commission personnel have been forced to live and work in facilities with dangerous levels of known carcinogens and other dangerous substances for years.
Plaintiffs charge that the U.S. Navy failed to properly investigate health hazards following reports of an unusually high number of cancer cases among otherwise young and healthy personnel at Camp Justice, the military court complex where legal teams work on the cases of suspected terrorists. The complaint cites the Navy’s “unreasonable delay” in completing a proper investigation, assessing the risks of known environmental hazards such as formaldehyde and benzo(a)pyrene, and remediating excessive risks. The complaint also challenges the Navy and Convening Authority’s “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.”
The complaint claims that the Navy—which has control over the infrastructure and grounds at Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, including Camp Justice—conducted a flawed investigation of the environmental hazards present at Camp Justice. Although this investigation found and documented the presence of hazardous conditions and cancer-causing chemicals, ranging from formaldehyde to heavy metals and mold, the investigation was inadequate to determine how great a risk they pose to human health, much less to determine appropriate remedial measures.
Based on this flawed and inadequate investigation, the Navy repeatedly and baselessly concluded that Camp Justice is safe and habitable for personnel to live and work there, despite evidence to the contrary and significant flaws and data gaps in its investigation.
Plaintiffs claim that the Defendants have failed to take reasonable steps to protect personnel from the known and unknown risks posed by environmental hazards at Camp Justice. Instead, Defendants have continued to require personnel to live and work in buildings at Camp Justice that are known to be contaminated, or where contamination levels have not been adequately investigated or fully understood.
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