The Navy is Looking at High Cancer Rates at Guantanamo Bay

Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth/Air Force file photo

After at least seven people working at the Guantanamo Bay military base and detention facility in Cuba had been diagnosed with cancer, according to a complaint filed with the US Department of Defense. It seeks to evacuate parts of the facility and test it for carcinogens, Reuters reports.

The anonymous complaint—which came from a Navy Reserves attorney, according to the Miami Herald—states that a number of young and otherwise healthy people, including civilian and military lawyers, have fallen ill while working there. The Navy, which runs the base, said Tuesday that it is investigating the issue.

The complaint does not mention any specific examples of cancer among Guantanamo detainees. Carcinogens could have come from jet fuel that was once disposed of at an abandoned airstrip on the site, or from toxic materials such as asbestos in some of the base’s older buildings.

A Miami Herald investigation found nine cases of different kinds of cancer among the hundreds of people who worked at Guantanamo’s Camp Justice since 2008. That’s when a trailer park and tent city were set up to temporarily house people working on the trials; they have remained there ever since.

According to the Herald, three of those who had fallen ill have died over the past 13 months. The most recent death was that of US Navy lieutenant commander Bill Kuebler, the appointed attorney of Canadian detainee Omar Khadr. He died July 27 at age 44.

President Obama has been promising to close the base since his first presidential campaign, and his administration finally outlined a plan last weekend that would transfer 64 detainees into the US. But its success is by no means certain.

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