Guantánamo - Latest Death is a Human Tragedy and a Human Rights Failure by the Obama Administration

On Thursday last the U.S. military announced that another prisoner had died at the Guantánamo detention centre in an apparent suicide. The man who had died was known as Inayatullah in Guantánamo but his real name was Hajji Nassim. The military claimed he admitted planning al Qaida terrorist operations and had acknowledged facilitating the movement of foreign fighters. But according to his lawyer he had never had a role in al Qaeda, and ran a cellphone shop in Iran near the Afghan border.

When they picked him up in September 2007 it seems the US authorities seized the wrong man. Tragically Nassim died without ever having had a chance to prove his innocence.

Nassim, who is the eighth prisoner to die at the detention center, suffered from mental health problems. His attorney Paul Rashkind told the Associated Press that he had twice before tried to kill himself at the U.S. base in Cuba and had a long-term mental illness that predated his time in custody. In an interview with the Miami Herald Rashkind explained that his client’s psychological problems were so severe that he had arranged to bring a civilian psychiatrist to the base to work with him.  This had not happened by the time of his death. “I have no doubt it was a suicide,” Rashkind said, adding, “This is really a sad mental health case … starting from childhood.”

Five of the previous seven deaths at Guantánamo were declared suicides. A study entitled Death in Camp Delta by Seton Hall University's Center for Policy and Research found "dramatic flaws in the government's investigation (and) raise(s) serious questions about the security of the Camp (and) derelictions of duty by officials of multiple defense and intelligence agencies". Many commentators have gone as far as saying that the authorities may even have let the prisoners die - or worse, killed them - and then whitewashed the investigations to suppress it.

In writing about the tragic death of Nassim, the author of author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison Andy Worthington refers to Guantánamo as "that cruel aberration created by the Bush administration, whose continued existence — and Obama’s failure to close it — mocks any attempt America might make to present itself to the world as a force for good, and an upholder of justice." And let us not forget that in August 2007 Obama declared

As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions

and in January 2009, after being elected U.S. President, he ssigned an executive order to close it within one year:

This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard.

As the man ultimately responsible for Nassim's sad and unnecessary death does a celebrity tour of Europe starting in Ireland, we should remember the victims of the U.S. "war on terror". There are now 171 men illegally and cruelly detailed at Guantánamo. Their presence there shows that the Obama administration is not in fact willing to observe core standards of conduct, and that they have little respect for human rights.  

 

 

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