Leaked 2004 Guantanamo Manual Shows Continued ICRC restrictions, Severe Pyschological illness, and Risk of Suicide


Jen Nessel, [email protected]

December 4, 2007, New York – The manual detailing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Guantánamo’s Camp Delta in 2004 was leaked and posted on Wikileaks. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and affiliated Guantánamo habeas attorneys helped provide a detailed analysis of the approximately 250-page document and compared it to the 2003 SOP manual leaked two weeks ago. The document, which is not classified but was not intended to be public, gives a detailed picture of conditions at the camp.

CCR attorneys called for the current SOP manual to be made public immediately, saying that vague assurances are not enough. Noting the continued violations of the Geneva Conventions and the severe mental illness at the prison in 2004, CCR attorneys also called for full compliance with the Geneva Conventions, unrestricted ICRC access to all prisoners in U.S. custody, and the cessation of solitary confinement as the norm for Guantánamo prisoners.

After the release of the 2003 manual, the Pentagon claimed that the manual was replaced and the concerns raised were no longer valid,” said CCR Attorney Emi MacLean. “What we see in the 2004 manual is more of the same. We see a prison that was deteriorating rapidly and trying to protect itself by wide-reaching public relations without any meaningful policy changes.

One of the most troubling aspects of the 2003 document, the denial and restriction of access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to variously designated groups of detainees at the camp, appears to have been softened, but ICRC access remains restricted in the 2004 manual. For instance, during the first two weeks of detention, detainees are prohibited from meeting with the ICRC or the chaplain. The results of Red Cross visits are not made public, but access is mandated by the Geneva Conventions in order to ensure the humane treatment of all prisoners. Both manuals only call for adherence to “the spirit of” the Geneva Conventions, not the letter, and not when it conflicts with military interests.

Of particular interest are sections that indicate Camp 4 was set up as a show camp for visitors, where personnel should possess “excellent public relations (PR) skills” and the Camp should be kept clean at all times as a “high visibility area” that “receives numerous visitors and tours” and “draws a lot of attention.” While a requirement that guards carry “U.S. Southcom Human Rights Standing Orders” card at all times was deleted from elsewhere in the SOPs, all Camp 4 personnel are required to have such cards.

The mental health provisions discuss the operations of the mental unit in detail and make clear that mental illness was already a serious problem at the camps in 2004. An expanded section on suicide indicates it was becoming an increasing concern at the camp. Coupled with the growing concern about suicides and severe psychological illness was a desire to mask the severity of the issue. The section on “suicide” is now entitled “Attempted / Actual Self-Harm.” An attempted hanging that requires someone to be cut down is a “self-harm incident.”

Some of the more significant elements in the 2004 SOP include:

  • The 2004 SOP indicates that there were a significant number of men at the camp with tuberculosis, as well as men with walkers, and boys 15 and under in age.
  • The manual continues to mandate the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners.
  • The manual includes a prohibition on reading books about geography, English instructional materials, or dictionaries.
  • Guards are not permitted to discuss current affairs with or within earshot of detainees, or to teach them songs; and detainees are prohibited from making eye contact with “distinguished visitors”, with procedures for averting eyes and turning detainees to face the wall laid out in detail.
  • Forced haircuts stated to be no longer a punishment; however, seemingly inconsistently, "barbers" present during searches and Immediate Reaction Force actions.
  • Comfort Items form in appendix includes additional toilet paper, mail, prayer beads and prayer cap.
  • Unauthorized activities for varying levels of detainees include reading anything besides the Koran, eating food outside of meal time, and wearing a towel or blanket on the head in place of prayer cap when denied prayer cap.
The four attorneys who worked on the document analysis with Wikileaks are CCR staff attorney Emi Maclean and co-counsel Marc Falkoff (law professor at Northern Illinois University School of Law), Rebecca Dick (attorney at Dechert LLP), and Elizabeth Gilson (private practitioner).

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and – just this month – sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating the largest ever coalition of pro bono lawyers in order to defend the men at Guantánamo, ensuring that nearly all have been represented. CCR will be representing the detainees with co-counsel in the Supreme Court on December 5.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

December 3, 2009