View Full Version : Guantánamo Inmates "Driven Insane"

01-11-2007, 03:06 PM
Guantánamo inmates ‘driven insane’


By Guy Dinmore in Washington

Published: January 10 2007 20:00 | Last updated: January 10 2007 20:00

Prisoners held at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba are being driven insane by a tightening of conditions and the situation of their indefinite detention without trial, according to lawyers and rights activists involved with the US camp.

The lawyers and activists also doubt whether the Bush administration intends to carry out its stated desire to close the facility.

Protesters around the world plan to mark Thursday’s fifth anniversary of the first delivery of detainees to Guantánamo with demonstrations calling for its closure. American anti-war activists and at least one former British prisoner intend to march to the perimeter of the US-held enclave in eastern Cuba.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, says the isolation regime at Guantánamo has tightened in recent months, piling the mental pressure on inmates who have “no fair procedure” that would lead to possible release.

Mr Roth told the Financial Times he had proposed to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and chairman of the European Union presidency, that EU member states offered to take some of the detainees who cannot return to their home countries for fear of torture. In exchange the US would offer a concrete closure plan that would lead to trials, preferably before a court martial, of remaining prisoners.

Ms Merkel was “intrigued but non-committal”, Mr Roth said. But he does not believe the US is looking to close the camp – despite comments by President George W. Bush last year that he would “very much” like to shut it down.

Mr Roth is also sceptical of Mr Bush’s claim in September to have closed CIA-run secret prisons when 14 terrorist suspects were transferred to Guantánamo. Human Rights Watch has documented 15 cases of prisoners who “disappeared” into the CIA prison system before September and have not been accounted for since.

Brent Mickum, a defence lawyer, says one of his two clients, Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi-born UK resident, “is slowly but surely slipping into madness” because of “prolonged isolation coupled with environmental manipulation that includes constant exposure to temperature extremes and constant sleep deprivation”. He says his ration of toilet paper was removed because he used it for shielding his eyes from the light and his prayer rug was taken away because he used it for warmth.

Attorneys representing other prisoners say their clients kept in isolation are going insane.

Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, says the five years of the Bush administration’s detention policy and related practices may have “done more to reverse 200 years of democracy than any other government act in US history”.

The answer, he said, was not simply to close Guantánamo but to reflect on how far off constitutional course our practices – and the warped policies on which they are based – had veered and to establish a rights-respecting national security policy for the future.

The US has released more than 300 inmates from Guantánamo and still holds nearly 400 there.

An official told the FT that charges would probably be laid against 60 to 80. Others will be released, but lawyers and activists are concerned that the remaining 200 to 300 will be held indefinitely.

The Pentagon said the detention of enemy combatants was in general “not criminal in nature, but to prevent them from continuing to fight against the US in the war on terror”.