Almost 100 inmates at Guantánamo were diagnosed with psychiatric problems, while others regarded as troublemakers went on to kill themselves.
Almost 100 Guantánamo prisoners were classified by the U.S. Army as having psychiatric illnesses including severe depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the prison camp files reveal.
Reports chronicle the disturbed behaviour of inmates, sometimes so extreme that even U.S. intelligence officers acknowledged they were unsuitable for interrogation.
Afghan prisoner 356, Modullah Abdul Raziq, who had been “captured by anti-Taliban forces,” was found unfit for interview in February 2002 when the first wave of Guantánamo inmates were psychiatrically assessed.
Raziq, the file notes, was regularly disruptive. His behaviour included ripping off his uniform, drinking shampoo, daubing his cell and himself with excrement and spitting at guards. Psychiatrists concluded he had a disorder “psychotic in nature, likely schizophrenia” and called for his removal from the base.
Camp staff noted Raziq had no proven affiliation with al-Qaeda and stressed that transferring him “will remove a significant personnel burden and security risk from Camp X-ray, that provides no intelligence value to U.S. forces, and an individual more than likely incapable of standing trial”.
The report goes on: “Repatriating detainee 356 to Afghanistan causes minimal to no risk to U.S. forces still operating in that region, as Afghan authorities would more than likely confine the detainee upon his arrival.” Raziq was released from Guantánamo into Afghan custody within a month of the assessment.
Others were kept imprisoned far longer. A 2004 assessment of Algerian Abdul Raham Houari noted that owing to “significant penetrating head trauma in 2001” he had frontal brain damage causing psychosis, slowed motor functions and difficulty with speech and understanding.
The assessment said he would need some form of custodial long-term care. Houari was held in Guantánamo for a further four years, during which time he made at least four suicide attempts, according to press reports.
Human rights organisations have repeatedly warned the U.S. government of the psychological damage caused by conditions in the camp. In 2008 Human Rights Watch published a 58-page report on Guantánamo and mental health that concluded: “None of the detainees at Guantánamo has yet been convicted of a crime. Many will ultimately be released.
“It is unwise and short-sighted to warehouse them in conditions that may have a damaging psychological impact, and are very likely to breed hatred and resentment of the United States over the long term.” While a significant number of prisoners were diagnosed as psychotic, many more were noted to be suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, depression or self-harming behaviour.
Guantánamo's behavioural team often characterised mentally ill patients as manipulative. The health note in one assessment says: “Detainee has multiple psychiatric diagnoses and is very manipulative.” Another describes a prisoner's suicide attempts: “Detainee suffers from borderline personality disorder, with a long history of manipulative behaviour with multiple suicidal threats and gestures and hospital admissions. Detainee requires daily contact from the behaviour health unit to avoid further suicidal gestures.” Others were left debilitated as a result of suicide attempts or self-mutilation. A June 2004 review of Saudi prisoner Mishal Awad Sayaf Alhabiri detailed a litany of injuries.
“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.” Alhabiri needed a wheelchair to get around and could follow only simple commands. As a result of his condition he was considered to be of low threat and intelligence value to the U.S. He was released a year later.
None of the five detainees believed to have killed themselves at Guantánamo Bay have any mental health issues noted within the files. However, all have a record of alleged disruptive behaviour and non-compliance. Most are among the 25 detainees who the files say went on hunger strikes.
Yasser Talal Zahrani, one of three prisoners who killed themselves on 10 June 2006, was noted to be of low intelligence value with “unremarkable” exposure to jihadist elements.
His disciplinary notes, though, refer to three hunger strikes and 113 separate alleged disciplinary “infractions,” including inciting disturbances, exposing himself to guards, possession of “weapon and non—weapon contraband” and threatening guards.
Yemeni inmate Mohammed Abdullah Saleh had 163 infractions against his name by June 2008, including “inciting mass disturbances.” Seven years after his capture on the Afghan frontline he was refused release.
A year later, after reportedly being force-fed during a hunger strike in the camp's psychiatric section, it was announced he had killed himself. The circumstances were not explained. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011