Guantánamo Bay: New report on impact on relatives

Amnesty International today (6 February) called for action from the British government on behalf of UK residents being held at the US detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as it published a new report on the prison camp.

The report, Guantánamo: Lives torn apart: the impact of indefinite detention on detainees and their families, outlines the effect of long-term detention without trial on detainees and also examines the often devastating effect of ongoing detentions on families around the world.

Over 500 prisoners of some 35 nationalities are being held at the prison camp and most have not been charged with an offence.

Though some prisoners have now been held for over four years, no-one has yet received a proper trial. In recent months a series of hunger strikes has begun in the camp, with detainees protesting at the lack of any progress in their cases.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“After four years Guantánamo has become a byword for abuse and an indictment of the US government’s failure to uphold human rights in the ‘war on terror’.

“The US authorities should immediately close down Guantánamo and either release prisoners or bring them before proper courts on the US mainland.

“The UK government’s reluctance to act on behalf of long-term residents of this country is itself shameful and must change. These men have become forgotten prisoners.�

Though there are no UK nationals currently held at Guantánamo there are believed to be nine long-term residents of the UK imprisoned, many of these with relatives also in the UK. These include people recognised as refugees by the UK authorities.

For example, Omar Deghayes, a 35-year-old Libyan national, has been imprisoned at Guantánamo for over three years. His family fled political persecution in Libya 25 years ago and was granted refugee protection in Britain.

Omar, who grew up in Brighton, has told his lawyer that he has been attacked by US guards at Guantánamo, including an occasion when guards forced a finger into his eye leaving him blind in one eye.

Omar’s sister, Amani Deghayes, said:

“Since Omar was taken to Guantánamo the impact on our family has been indescribable. Every day is a struggle but we are determined to see this through.

“The sheer injustice of holding Omar for years without even charging him with anything is unbelievable. I’m not looking for any special treatment for my brother – I just want his basic human rights to be respected.

“What disappoints me most is the unwillingness of the UK government to lift a finger for my brother.�

Amnesty International’s report also details suicide attempts by desperate Guantánamo inmates.

One prisoner, Jumah al-Dossari, has repeatedly tried to kill himself in protest at his illegal detention. One suicide attempt has left him with a broken vertebra and 14 stitches in his arm.

He has explained to his lawyer that he wants to kill himself in such a way that the camp authorities will be unable to cover up his actions.

Jumah al-Dossari is currently being held in solitary confinement in the “supermaximum� security Camp V block, the harshest facility at Guantánamo.

The report also shows that some detainees have been transferred from Guantánamo only to be re-incarcerated without charge or trial in their home countries.

Still other Guantánamo inmates – thought to be nine in number – have so far had their detentions extended by more than a year despite the fact that the US authorities have confirmed that they are no longer categorised as “enemy combatants�.

Amnesty International has repeatedly sought permission to visit Guantánamo prisoners but has always been denied this.

In November last year the United Nations torture expert Manfred Novak similarly announced that the US authorities would not allow the UN to gain full access to prisoners at the camp.

  • Read the report
  • Find out more about Guantánamo Bay /li>

View latest press releases