Search for:
  • Home/
  • india/
  • Click! ‘Gitmo inmates at risk of mental illness’

Click! ‘Gitmo inmates at risk of mental illness’

SAN JUAN: Guantanamo Bay detainees are at increasing risk of mental illness because most are held in extreme isolation, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday. Most of the men held at the base in southeast Cuba – none of whom has been convicted – are worse off than convicts at the highest security “supermax” prisons in the US because they are denied family visits and not permitted to have radios or televisions in their cells, the human rights group said.

“Guantanamo detainees who have not even been charged with a crime are being warehoused in conditions that are in many ways harsher than those reserved for the most dangerous, convicted criminals in the United States,” said Jennifer Daskal, a senior counterterrorism counsel at the New York-based group.

A spokeswoman for the detention center, Navy Commander Pauline Storum, said about 15 percent of the Guantanamo detainees are followed for mental health issues on a regular basis” – a rate suggesting that prisoners there are healthier than at an average US prison.

Over the past year, officials have announced some steps to ease conditions, such as allowing prisoners to call their families once a year.

The new report echoes allegations made for years by attorneys for the prisoners, who say the lack of human contact has taken a toll on their clients’ mental health.

“Detainees receive virtually no educational or rehabilitative programming to help them pass the time,” it said.

Human Rights Watch said about 185 of Guantanamo’s 270 detainees are held in maximum-security conditions, where inmates are confined to individual cells for up to 22 hours a day. They are allowed to leave their cells for showers and up to two hours of recreation in a small chain-link pen.

Dozens of men are held in Camp 4, a section reserved for the “most compliant” prisoners. Those detainees live in dorm-like communal cells; share meals and can spend the day outdoors in a fenced compound that includes a bare-dirt recreation area for soccer and other activities.

The report cites the cases of two detainees facing trial on war-crimes charges – Salim Hamdan and Mohammed Jawad. Human Rights Watch notes that the men’s lawyers say the prisoners are so traumatized by their confinement they may not be able to aid their own defense.

The 56-page report, “Locked Up Alone: Detention Conditions and Mental Health at Guantanamo,” urged the military to provide more language classes, recreation time and opportunities for detainees to speak with their families overseas by telephone.

The US says it is holding the detainees as “enemy combatants” to prevent them returning to hostilities against the United States, though it only plans to file charges against about 80 of them.