The “Guantanamo files,” a list of over 700 secret documents on the controversial offshore prison of the United States, has lifted the veil on how the so-called “enemy combatants” held there were in many cases “senile old men,” children, and sometimes mentally ill.

According to the files, published by the Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdom and several others, a 2002 assessment of the prison’s oldest detainee, Mohammed Sadiq, (then 89), “revealed dementia, depression and sickness.” Further Sadiq was said to have a major depressive disorder, senile dementia and osteoarthritis, for which he was receiving prescribed treatment; he was also being assessed for prostate cancer.

Similarly the memos outline the case of Canadian Omar Khadr, who was 15 years of age when captured and was still in Guantanamo nearly nine years on. In a particularly telling video of footage from an interrogation of Khadr (available at: he is shown breaking down in tears before the official questioning him.

More than one case of mentally ill prisoners was also evident in the memos, and often these inmates were held for extended periods despite being only of marginal or negligible interest from an intelligence-gathering perspective.

One memo on a Saudi inmate, Mishal Awad Sayaf Alhabiri, reads, “Approximately one year ago [he] attempted suicide by hanging. This resulted in significant brain injury due to lack of oxygen. He has been hospitalised since that time and has unpredictable emotions and behaviour. He also has a history of a head injury from a motor vehicle accident at age 18.”

Another outlines the case of Yasser Talal Zahrani, “one of three prisoners who killed themselves on 10 June 2006, [and] was noted to be of low intelligence value with ‘unremarkable’ exposure to jihadist elements.”

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