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And, yes, I DO take it personally: "Passive suicide" in Guantánamo: "The immoral has become so mundane"
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Friday, October 05, 2007

"Passive suicide" in Guantánamo: "The immoral has become so mundane"

This is my country! Land of my birth!
This is my country! Grandest on earth!
I pledge thee my allegiance,
America, the bold,
For this is my country to have and to hold.
Clive Stafford Smith, the legal director of Reprieve, a British charity that provides legal representation to prisoners around the world, offers an op-ed in the LA Times on Guantánamo.

[T]he irony of this place runs deep, as does the tragedy. The base motto is "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom," even though my clients, who are prisoners in the detention center, have none.


Most of the secrecy in Guantánamo involves suppressing bad news about the base rather than anything that should really be classified. But I obey the rules or I go to jail, so until I get permission, I can only write about what I see, not what is said.


After crossing the bay on the 8 a.m. ferry, an escort drove me down Recreation Road, past the golf course. I noticed a yellow sign. The soldiers were admonished that their value of the week should be "Compassion."


It is sometimes a minor rule change, imposed from far above, that inflames me. I always carry lozenges, and some months back, a hunger-striking client agreed to take one to soothe his sore throat. By my next visit, the list of "contraband" had expanded to bar this insignificant salve.


In more than 20 years trying death-penalty cases, I have visited all the worst prisons in the Deep South, yet none compares to Camp Six here. To the military, this tribute to Halliburton's profiteering is state-of-the-art; to the human being, it is simply inhumane. The prisoners have an average of 23 hours a day in isolation, six hours of direct sunlight a month, perhaps one fishing magazine a week to read, and never, ever the chance to see a loved one. The immoral has become so mundane.

here's a little bit about reprieve...
Reprieve provides frontline investigation and legal representation to prisoners denied justice by powerful governments across the world, especially those governments that should be upholding the highest standards when it comes to fair trials.

Reprieve lawyers represent people facing the death penalty, particularly in the USA, or when those facing execution are British nationals . And we represent prisoners denied justice in the name of the ‘War on Terror,’ including those held without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay and the countless secret prisons beyond. None of these prisoners can afford to pay for representation.

and here's some of what reprieve has to say about al jazeera journalist, sami al haj, clive stafford smith's client, who has spent over five years in detention...
Reprieve ... released statements from two leading psychiatrists diagnosing a serious decline in the mental condition of Guantanamo Bay prisoner Sami al Haj. The reports by noted Texan psychiatrist Dr. Dan Creson and British psychiatrist Dr. Hugh Rickards call for urgent and immediate treatment for Mr. al Haj.

Reprieve lawyers have represented Mr. al Haj since 2005. Reprieve provides frontline investigation and legal representation for prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Dr. Creson’s report suggests that Sami al Haj is suffering from severe depression and may be deteriorating to the point of imminent death:

“The … diagnosis best fitting the clinical picture that emerges … is Major Depression with psychotic features. It is also clear that his depressed affect bears little resemblance to depressive states one sees in the ordinary clinical practice of Psychiatry. He, in my opinion, fits into a sub-category of severe depression often seen in complex emergencies where an individual has given up all hope; where nothing remains relevant to survival. Such individuals have been called “passive suicides” by some humanitarian aid workers.”


“Mr Al Haj has the symptoms necessary for a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it does seem a bit premature to use the term “Post” when the trauma is on going… Forced feeding is, in my opinion, always traumatic, even when it is done with respect and kindness. Indeed, the general ambiance of disrespect and planned humiliation are psychological traumas that contribute to depression and hopelessness.”

He goes on to say:

“The marked change in attitude that was noted and the description of Mr al Haj’s current behaviour suggests to me that Mr al Haj no longer has the ability to cope with his relentlessly traumatic environment and is in the process of withdrawing into himself; in effect, he is becoming a case of passive suicide. His cognitive changes, e.g. paranoia, are symptomatic of his depression, but probably also worsen as his physical deterioration increases. As his environment becomes more painful and less humane, with each new punitive act he is forced to endure, he will lose even whatever remaining will to live that he now retains.”

sami al haj has been held for nearly six years without charges... he has been on a hunger strike for 247 days and force-fed that entire time...

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