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Camp X-Ray Detainees to Receive New Quarters Soon - 2002-04-11

U.S. military officials at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are preparing to move 299 Taleban and al-Qaida prisoners to a new detention camp. The new facility will provide a greater level of comfort for the prisoners and reduce demands on military police.

For months, detainees at Guantanamo Bay have been held at Camp X-Ray, a hastily-constructed, open-air facility consisting of 320 individual cells separated by chain link fence. Some human rights groups have decried the units as "dog kennels."

That is all about to change. In coming days, contractors expect to complete 408 cells at a new facility called Camp Delta. Marine Major James Bell says Camp Delta will afford the detainees certain basic comforts currently unavailable at Camp X-Ray. "They will each have their own toilets [in their cells]," he explains. "They will each have their own water basins. They will each have their own fixed beds with a mattress."

Major Bell notes that the wash basins will be of particular importance, as they will allow the prisoners to wash themselves as part of the Muslim purification ritual before prayer.

In recent weeks, reports have surfaced that the rigors of tending to the detainees is taking a toll on the mental health of guards assigned to Camp X-Ray. Major Bell says Camp Delta has been designed to alleviate the problem by reducing the need for direct interaction between the prisoners and the guards.

"The way we are set up right now at Camp X-Ray, we do not have toilets inside the units, so when detainees need to use the facilities, he has to be escorted by military police to portable toilets," said Major Bell. "That particular activity will be eliminated for the security guards that have to operate in that environment. From that standpoint, I think it is a much more secure environment."

Major Bell says many detainees continue to inquire about their future and what will become of them. He says the prisoners have been informed that some will face terrorism-related charges at military tribunals and that some may eventually be allowed to return home.