Doctors for Human Rights welcome the news that Moazzam Begg, Richard Belmar, Feroz Abbasi and Martin Mubanga are returning to the UK from Guantánamo Bay today.
The four UK citizens have been held without charge in circumstances that cause Doctors for Human Rights considerable concern over the men's mental and physical health, a concern supported by the findings of a recent medical survey amongst Belmarsh detainees.
The impact on the mental health of eight of the Anti Terrorism Crime and Security Act detainees held for up to three years indefinite detention within an intensely restricted environment at Belmarsh prison, was recently assessed by a group of forensic psychiatrists and a psychologist.
All the detainees have suffered from depression. There has been a high level of suicidal ideation and attempts at self-harm, ranging from superficial cuttings to attempts at hanging.
The clinicians found fluctuations in the detainees’ mental state related directly to the prison regime and to the vagaries of the appeal system. Some detainees developed psychotic symptoms - others post traumatic stress disorder.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has concluded that it is the unique character of their incarceration - its indefinite nature without charge and without due legal process - which is primarily responsible for their severe mental disorders that will not respond to treatment as long as the circumstances of their imprisonment remain unchanged. (1)
Speaking in London today, Dr. Peter Hall Chair of Doctors for Human Rights said, “These young men have been in Guantanamo for far too long. Moazzam Begg has said in a letter that he was tortured. If there is credible evidence linking him to terrorism, then of course he should stand trial. His father has always said that. But just as the four detaineees have due process rights so do they have health rights, and it is to be hoped that they will soon be on the road to recovery from their ordeal. We are also concerned about non-UK citizens who remain at Guantanamo, not least those who are residents of the UK and may not be in a position to have their country of birth negotiate for their release.”
Note to Eds: Doctors for Human Rights held a London conference in 2004 on the health and human rights of unlawful detainees in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, which was addressed by both the father and the lawyer of Moazzam Begg, as well as by one of the psychiatrists involved in assessing Belmarsh detainees. It has been in discussions about the circumstances of Guantanamo Bay with UK officials and with the UN Committee against Torture. [ENDS]
1. Statement by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in respect of the psychiatric problems of detainees held under the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act – January 2005. http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/new/index.htm