Yemeni prisoners at Gitmo become clinically insane, says HOOD [Archives:2008/1158/Front Page]

May 26 2008

Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA'A, May 25 ) Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Sami Al-Hajj revealed that certain Yemeni inmates at the United States military prison in Cuba, also known as “Gitmo,” have gone clinically insane because of “hallucinogenic pills” they were forced to take by guards.

Ahmed Arman confirmed that many Yemeni inmates develop negative psychological conditions inside the American detention camp in Cuba, though he could not confirm

“I have been told that Yemeni doctor Ayman Badhrafi (who is still in custody) became insane. He is not the only case; Fuwaz Nouman, who recently came back to Yemen, also suffers from serious psychological problems,” said Arman, an activist and lawyer with the human rights organization known as HOOD, the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedom.

Marc Falkoff, an American lawyer who represents a number of Yemeni detainees at Gitmo, said that it is impossible to determine definitively whether someone suffers from a psychological ailment without an examination by a medical professional. However the US military prison does not allow outside doctors to visit or treat prisoners.

“We lawyers have repeatedly sought permission from the military and from the judges overseeing our cases to allow us to bring a psychologist or psychiatrist with us to Guantanamo,” said Falkoff. “In every instance, our requests have been denied.”

The prison at Guantanamo Bay has witnessed four suicides along with dozens of attempts. According to Falkoff, the US military has reported that at least 10 percent of the prisoners at Guantanamo suffer from serious psychological problems.” Falkoff said that he thinks the high number of prisoners suffering from mental illness is due to the extreme isolation that they are kept in. “To the extent that the military has made a diagnosis of any of our clients, we are forbidden by Defense Department censors from revealing the maladies in public,” added Falkoff.

Al-Hajj told HOOD that 85 Yemeni detainees have been waiting to be repatriated to Yemen for almost a year, after a writ of their release by the American administration. “Fifteen of them were supposed to arrive in Sana'a airport in March last year,” said Al-Hajj.

Al-Hajj also said that a Yemeni security delegation visited Guantanamo Bay asking the Yemeni detainees to stop their hunger strike.

HOOD is helping Al-Hajj to visit to Yemen in order to speak about his and the others' experience. “We will invite Al-Hajj to Sana'a to learn more about the Yemeni Gitmo detainees,” said Arman.

Al-Hajj worked as cameraman for Al-Jazeera channel before he was arrested on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001 for suspected links to Al-Qaeda. He was detained in the Guantanamo Bay facility for seven years without clear charges and was set free just this month, on Thursday, May 1.

In 2005, some American media outlets criticized the torture tactics used inside the camp, which opened in January 2002 to detain fighters captured in Afghanistan and terrorism suspects captured overseas. The well-known American television news program, 60 Minutes, previously revealed secret emails from FBI agents at Guantanamo telling FBI headquarters that prisoners were being tortured. The emails, according to 60 minutes, said that U.S. military intelligence personnel used cruel treatment and bizarre sexual tactics on the prisoners

Some prisoners “are chained hand and foot in a fetal position” for up to 24 hours at a time and prisoners had “urinated or defecated on themselves,” according to these classified FBI emails.

Another FBI document said an interrogator grabbed a detainee's thumbs and “bent them backwards” and “grabbed his genitals.” One FBI agent reported that he saw a detainee had been “gagged with duct tape that covered much of his head.” The interrogator explained that the prisoner had been “chanting the Qur'an and would not stop.”

“Besides the miserable conditions that all Gitmo inmates suffer, Yemeni inmates are more frustrated as they see cellmates of other nationalities leave the camp, while they (Yemenis) lost the hope to leave soon,” said Arman.

Yemeni detainees constitute almost half of Guantanamo detainees. Several international and national attempts were made to repatriate the Yemeni detainees, but there has been little movement on this issue. “The U.S. government said that it would return many Yemenis if the Yemeni government gave the U.S. government official assurances that guaranteed that the returned detainees wouldn't be tortured and also would join rehabilitation programs,” said a HOOD press release. The HOOD statement said that the American government held the detainees under the pretext of having no official written assurance of this agreement, which the inmates' American lawyers say is not necessary.

Yet the Yemeni government said that they have presented all the official written documents that the U.S. requested. “The conflicted official responses from both Yemen and the U.S. made the lawyers uncomfortable,” noted HOOD.