September 15, 2007
Thanks to Ismail Kashkash for this compilation
on a vicious case of injustice:
By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor
An al-Jazeera journalist captured in Afghanistan six years ago and sent to Guantanamo Bay is close to becoming the fifth detainee at the US naval base to take his own life, according to a medical report written by a team of British and American psychiatrists.
Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese national, is 250 days into a hunger strike which he began in protest over his detention without charge or trial in January 2002. But British and American doctors, who have been given exclusive access to his interview notes, say there is very strong evidence that he has given up his fight for life, experiencing what doctors recognise as "passive suicide", a condition suffered by female victims of Darfur.
Dr Dan Creson, a US psychiatrist who has worked with the United Nations in Darfur , said Mr Haj was suffering from severe depression and may be deteriorating to the point of imminent death.
He said the detainee's condition was similar to that of Darfuri women in Sudan whose mind suddenly experiences an irreversible decline after enduring months of starvation and abuse. He said: "In the midst of rape, slow starvation, and abject humiliation, they did whatever they could to survive and save their children; then, suddenly, something happened in their psyche, and, without warning, they would just sit down with their small children beneath the first small area of available shade and with no apparent emotion wait for death."
In June this year a Saudi man became the fourth prisoner to take his own life at Guantanamo Bay . Guards found him dead in his cell. Two Saudis and a Yemeni prisoner were found hanged in an apparent suicide at Guantanamo in June last year. A senior US officer caused outrage at the time by describing the suicides of three men as an act of asymmetric warfare and a good PR move on the part of terrorist suspects.
Mr Haj, 38, was sent on assignment by al-Jazeera television station to cover the war in Afghanistan in October 2001. The following month, after the fall of Kabul, Mr Haj left Afghanistan for Pakistan with the rest of his crew.
In early December, the crew were given visas to return to Afghanistan . But when Mr Haj tried to re-enter Afghanistan with his colleagues, he was arrested by the Pakistani authorities - apparently at the request of the US military.
He was imprisoned, handed over to the US authorities in January 2002, taken to the US military compound in Bagram, Afghanisatan, then Kandahar, and finally to Guantanamo in June 2002.
His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, of the human rights charity Reprieve, said his client had endured months of brutal force-feeding and lost nearly a fifth of his body weight during the hunger strike.
Mr Stafford Smith said: "The US military is rightly afraid of a fifth prisoner dying in their custody. But they wrongly respond by treating prisoners worse. Blankets and clothes are removed in case they are used to commit suicide. The harshest methods of forced feeding are deployed - Sami has suffered the feeding tube being forced down into his lungs by mistake several times."
The warning about the condition of Mr Haj coincided with the release of Guantanamo transcripts which describe the hostility between guards and their prisoners. The transcripts includes details of guards interrupting detainees at prayer, detainees flinging body waste at guards and interrogators withholding medicine.
Dr Hugh Rickards, a British psychiatrist, warned in his report that the level of Mr Haj's mental suffering "appears so acute that it is my duty as a medical practitioner to put this in writing to ensure appropriate assessment and treatment".
Dr Mamoun Mobayed, a British psychiatrist based in Northern Ireland, and a third member of the team who has also been given access to written notes of recent interviews with the prisoner, said there was also concern about the mental health of Mr Haj's wife and seven-year-old son, who was just one when his father went on assignment to Afghanistan.
Who is prisoner 345? And why should you and I care about him?
Free Sami Al-Hajj
http://hussamaylous h.blogspot. com/2007/ 08/prisoner- 345.html
Prisoner 345 is Sami Al-Haj. Sami Al-Haj is prisoner 345 at the United States Detainment Camp in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Sami has been on hunger strike since 7th January, 2007. Sami was arrested in Pakistan in December 2001 while travelling with a legitimate visa to work in Afghanistan as a cameraman for Al Jazeera.
But he is being held as an `enemy combatant'. Al Jazeera, its offices, and its reporters have regularly come under attack (political as well as physical) by the Bush administration. Its crime is not becoming a cheer leader (like many other media outlets that we shall not mention) for the Bush administration' s numerous endless wars.
The Bush administration and the Pentagon have not charged Sami with any crime. Who gives us the right to take the freedom of people and separate them from their families without charging them with crimes? How would we feel if an American is subjected to such immoral and illegal practice?
Mr. Al-Haj must be freed and compensated for all the harm we have caused to him and his family. Mr. Al-Haj deserves an apology. But again, we owe this apology to the millions of innocent Iraqis and Afghans that we have ruined their livelihoods for the terrorist crime of 9/11 which they had no responsibility for.
I never met Sami Al-Haj. I never worked for Al-Jazeera. So why do I care? This position is basically for three groups of people. The first, it is for me personally. I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that one who sees injustice and remains silent about it is a mute devil, ie a silent partner in that injustice. I do not want to be an accomplice in this major injustice.
The second group is my children. I have always stressed to my children the Qur'anic teaching of speaking against injustice, especially when it is committed by one's own. Presently, my country is engaging in unjust practices. Remaining silent is not an option. My children need
to know that when I had the chance to speak out, I did not cower. The Guantanamo Bay Gulag must be shut down. Those responsible for any crimes should have their day in an independent court and if not found guilty, they should be freed. The indefinite detention without charges
is in itself a form of terrorism (called kidnapping), let alone the
torture our government (sanctioned by our Attorney General Alberto Gonzales) has applied in the process. This is not what America stands for.
As Americans, we have a duty to oppose those whose actions taint our country's history, image, and credibility. Of course, our first duty is to defend the dignity and humanity of every human being.
The third group is Sami's family: his parents, his wife, and his son Mohammad who was born after Sami was illegally detained by our forces. They need to know that many Americans are ashamed and appalled by the
actions of our government. We feel your pain. We pray for the day Sami will be free and will finally get to meet his son for the first time.
As a father, I know that there is nothing that we can do to make up for the days Sami was deprived from seeing his son grow or the days Mohammad needed his father's love, hugs, and comfort.
For more information on Sami Al-Haj, please read:
Sami must be freed.
Humiliated In The Shackles
By Sami al Hajj
When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,
Hot tears covered my face.
When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
Mohammad, I am afflicted.
In my despair, I have no one but Allah for comfort.
The oppressors are playing with me,
As they move freely around the world.
They ask me to spy on my countrymen,
Claiming it would be a good deed.
They offer me money and land,
And freedom to go where I please.
Their temptations seize
My attention like lightning in the sky.
But their gift is an empty snake,
Carrying hypocrisy in its mouth like venom,
They have monuments to liberty
And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.
But I explained to them that
Architecture is not justice.
America, you ride on the backs of orphans,
And terrorize them daily.
The world recognizes an arrogant liar.
To Allah I direct my grievance and my tears.
I am homesick and oppressed.
Mohammad, do not forget me.
Support the cause of your father, a God-fearing man.
I was humiliated in the shackles.
How can I now compose verses? How can I now write?
After the shackles and the nights and the suffering and the tears,
How can I write poetry?
My soul is like a roiling sea, stirred by anguish,
Violent with passion.
I am a captive, but the crimes are my captors'.
I am overwhelmed with apprehension.
Lord, unite me with my son Mohammad.
Lord, grant success to the righteous