Guantánamo Bay’s prison commander has been fired. Was it because he spoke up about inmate health?

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — The commander of the prison at Guantánamo Bay has been fired seven weeks before he was to leave the job.

Adm. Craig S. Faller relieved Rear Adm. John C. Ring for a “loss of confidence in his ability” to lead, the U.S. Southern Command said Sunday in a brief statement. Ring’s deputy, Brig. Gen. John F. Hussey, is now the acting commander.

Col. Amanda Azubuike, a spokeswoman for Southern Command, known as SOUTHCOM, which oversees the prison, said the decision to remove Ring had nothing to do with a recent news media visit he hosted there. She said only that he was let go after a monthlong investigation that was opened in March.

Faller, the leader of Southern Command, and Ring met Saturday at the command’s headquarters in Doral, Florida, where Faller “personally informed” Ring that he was being fired. Ring “will be temporarily assigned duties elsewhere” in Southern Command, Azubuike said.

Ring, a former commander of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, was the 18th leader of the prison operations that started in January 2002. He began that assignment in April 2018 and was due to be replaced in a routine rotation the week of June 11.

“The vast majority of commanders complete their assigned tours with distinction,” Azubuike said. “When they fall short, we hold our leaders accountable, which reflects the importance we place on the public’s trust and confidence in our military leaders.”

In this photo reviewed by U.S. military officials, detainees, names and facial identification not permitted, interact inside the Camp VI detention facility, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

At Guantánamo, Ring was responsible for 40 detainees and a staff of 1,800 troops and civilian employees. Soon after taking charge, he became an outspoken advocate of the need to build a new prison for 15 men who had been held by the CIA before their 2006 transfer to U.S. military custody.

Many of the prison’s “guests,” as Ring has described them are getting on in years. Defense One reports that the oldest is 71, many others are now in their mid-50s. Many of their lawyers say their health is deteriorating because of ill-treatment — up to and including torture — suffered at the hands of U.S. authorities who interrogated them.

“I’m sort of caught between a rock and a hard place,” Ring was quoted by Defense One as saying, after the most recent press trip. “The Geneva Conventions’ Article III, that says that I have to give the detainees equivalent medical care that I would give to a trooper. But if a trooper got sick, I’d send him home to the United States. And so I’m stuck. Whatever I’m going to do, I have to do here.”

“A lot of my guys are prediabetic. Am I going to do dialysis down here? I don’t know. Somebody has got to tell me that. Are we going to do complex cancer care down here? I don’t know, somebody has got to tell me that,” Ring told the assembled press.

In 2013 and 2014, Gen. John F. Kelly, a former SOUTHCOM leader who would become President Donald Trump’s first homeland security secretary and second chief of staff, had unsuccessfully lobbied Congress for money to replace the prison.

Ring renewed that effort in June, telling reporters that the top-secret prison where the military segregates high-value detainees, called Camp 7, would become inadequate as the prisoners aged. Camp 7 houses Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and other men the CIA previously held as leaders, deputies or foot soldiers of al-Qaida or other extremist groups.




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