In a new report published today (5 April), Amnesty International says that 80% of detainees at the US military prison at Guant’namo Bay in Cuba are being held in solitary confinement, often in harsh and inhumane conditions.
The report, published days after UK resident Bisher al-Rawi was returned from Guant’namo after over four years in detention – some of it in solitary confinement, calls for an end to the routine use of extended solitary confinement by the US authorities and for independent medical experts to be allowed to examine the prisoners.
Amnesty International has long called for the entire camp to be closed, with plans for unfair ‘military commission’ trials to be abandoned. Last month the organisation published a 103-page report condemning the military commissions as a ‘travesty of justice’.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: ‘The entire process at Guant’namo is a travesty of justice, but we have particular concerns over the widespread use of solitary confinement in harsh conditions at the camp.
‘With many prisoners already in despair at being held in indefinite detention on a remote island prison, some are dangerously close to full-blown mental and physical breakdown after years of solitary confinement.
‘The US authorities should immediately stop pushing people to the edge with extreme isolation techniques and allow proper access for independent medical experts and human rights groups.’
There are approximately 385 men held at Guant’namo Bay and, after an apparent hardening of US operational detention policy in January, around 300 of these are now being held in three units with minimal contact with other prisoners or even prison guards. These units – known as Camp 5, Camp 6 and Camp Echo – are comparable to so-called ‘super-max’ high security units in the United States.
Unlike mainland super-max prisoners, however, Guant’namo detainees are held indefinitely as ‘enemy combatants’, face either no trial at all or an unfair one, have no family visits and no independent expert examinations.
The Red Cross, the only independent monitoring organisation allowed to inspect the detention facilities at Guant’namo, has described conditions at Camp Echo as ‘extremely harsh’. Prisoners are kept in their windowless cells for 23 or 24 hours a day, and – in the absence of any natural light whatsoever – fluorescent lighting is kept on 24 hours a day. Meanwhile, Camp 6 has been described by one detainee as a ‘dungeon above the ground’…
The AI petition calling for the return of all the British residents held at Gauntanamo can be signed here