[Pnews] Sharqawi Al Hajj Appears Before Guantánamo Review Board after Multiple Acts of Self-Harm and Suicidal Statements

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Apr 26 11:01:22 EDT 2021


  Sharqawi Al Hajj Appears Before Guantánamo Review Board after
  Multiple Acts of Self-Harm and Suicidal Statements


Contact: press at ccrjustice.org

    Hearing Comes on Heels of Deteriorating Mental Health and Over a
    Year Without Attorney Visits Due to COVID-19�

April 20, 2021, Guantánamo – /Today, a Periodic Review Board (PRB) 
was held for Sharqawi Al Hajj, a man who has been detained in 
Guantánamo without charge for over 17 years. Mr. Al Hajj, who survived 
two years in CIA sites where he was tortured before Guantánamo, and 
whose despair in recent years led him to cut his wrist after stating he 
wanted to end his life, nonetheless chose to appear before the board to 
plead for his release. His lawyer, who attended the hearing virtually, 
says that Mr. Al Hajj’s presence, despite his challenges, including 
heightened isolation after over a year without attorney visits due to 
COVID-19-related travel restrictions to Guantánamo, gives the board the 
opportunity to end the cruelty of his detention and clear him for 
release. �

“Nearly 20 years in custody without charge and still without end 
speaks for itself /–/ Mr. Al Hajj’s detention is unlawful, cruel, 
and may end tragically. Any recommendation for continuing detention 
after all this time, given Mr. Al Hajj’s precarious condition, would 
amount to a possible death sentence and would be entirely incoherent 
with the Biden administration’s stated intention of finally closing 
the prison,” said Mr. Al Hajj’s attorney, Center for Constitutional 
Rights Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei 

Mr. Al Hajj’s mental health has demonstrably worsened in recent years. 
As Kebriaei recounted in her public statement to the review board, since 
mid-2018, Mr. Al Hajj has gone from making general statements of 
hopelessness, to increasingly specific statements about wanting to end 
his life, to two separate incidents of actual self-inflicted harm, in 
August 2019 and again in March 2020. This has been alongside repeated 
hospitalizations after prolonged periods of hunger striking, as well as 
long-standing issues of chronic pain and jaundice-related symptoms of 
weakness and fatigue that exacerbate his overall condition. A separate 
statement to the board from Katherine Porterfield, a clinical 
psychologist with the Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture who has 
been consulting on Mr. Al Hajj’s case, stated that his mental 
functioning will likely continue to worsen under the status quo, to the 
point of possible irreparable harm.�

Kebriaei says that Mr. Al Hajj’s downward trajectory /–/ the result 
of untreated torture during his years at CIA sites, the toll of nearly 
two decades of indefinite detention, and the impossibility of meaningful 
mental health care given that Mr. Al Hajj’s distress is inextricably 
linked to his environment /–/ reflects a broader urgency the Biden 
administration must heed in dealing with Guantánamo, as President Biden 
nears the end of his first 100 days in office. Currently, detainees are 
reporting widespread hunger strikes at the prison.�

At PRB hearings /–/ which are ostensibly a forward-looking, 
administrative processes to determine whether “detention is necessary 
to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of 
the United States” /–/ detainees can be subjected to pointed 
questioning about past conduct, now two decades old, without any 
assurances about how their statements may be used against them, 
including for purposes of prosecution. A statement from the Center for 
Victims of Torture and Physicians for Human Rights for Mr. Al Hajj’s 
hearing pointed to this catch-22 for Mr. Al Hajj and other detainees as 
a structural problem with the process, and urged that a detainee’s 
refusal to “confess” to decades old, disputed factual allegations 
should not weigh against a recommendation for transfer.�

For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case 
<https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/al-hajj-v-trump-0> and 
Mr. Al Hajj’s client profile <https://ccrjustice.org/sharqawi-al-hajj>.

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