Detainee's Conditions Upheld
Friday, November 18, 2005
Government lawyers contend that Jumah Dossari, a suicidal detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been receiving appropriate mental health care and has "adequate" amounts of human interaction, exercise and intellectual stimulation, according to papers filed in federal court this week.
The lawyers and officials at the U.S. military prison said that Dossari is not in isolation or solitary confinement, though he is held in a cell with solid walls and can communicate verbally with other detainees only through the narrow food tray slot in his door when it is left open. They also said that Dossari has established "a cordial relationship with members of his interrogation team" and has eaten pizza, watched movies and played checkers with them during 29 interrogation sessions over the past two years.
Dossari, 32, a Bahraini national, is under close medical supervision at the U.S. Naval Hospital at the Guantanamo Bay base after a suicide attempt. He tried to hang himself with a makeshift noose and slashed his right arm in a bathroom during a visit from his attorney on Oct. 15.
Dossari tried to kill himself again on Monday by ripping the stitches out of his arm wound, according to an affidavit filed Wednesday by Capt. John S. Edmondson, the hospital's commander.
Edmondson wrote that it was the ninth time Dossari has attempted suicide since March 2003, something his attorney says is an obvious sign of desperation.
"It is both a message and a decision on his part that he would rather die than be there," said Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, a New York lawyer with Dorsey & Whitney. He also said that the government is not doing enough to protect Dossari and that by keeping him "in the most isolating unit in the entire camp," it is doing irreparable mental harm.
Justice Department lawyers filed papers this week saying that the conditions at Guantanamo Bay are legal and humane. They said that Dossari's requests for more access to other detainees, additional reading materials, increased contact with his family and access for his lawyers to his medical records "would impose undue burdens" on the government.
The lawyers also said that officials have been working to help Dossari but that he does not take his medication and refused 72 of 97 exercise sessions they offered. Dossari also is allowed a 15-minute daily hygiene break.
"He has not been kept in isolation," Col. Michael I. Bumgarner, commander of the Joint Detention Group at Guantanamo Bay, wrote in an affidavit. "The cells within Camp 5 have solid walls, but allow communication with other detainees on the block in addition to daily interactions with guards, medical staff, library personnel and mail delivery personnel."
The filing was an unusual glimpse into daily life of a detainee at the facility, and included the first release of specific details on Dossari's conditions. Officials typically decline to discuss individual detainees.
Listed as "Inmate 261" in the court papers, Dossari is described as being friendly with his interrogators. The alleged enemy combatant has been allowed to watch the graphically violent film "Gladiator" with interrogators, and when he enjoyed that "motif" was allowed to watch the film "Troy" with them, Bumgarner wrote.
Colangelo-Bryan said the government's filing suggests that Dossari is no longer of intelligence interest to the U.S. government because he has been interrogated only 29 times over the past two years. He also disputed the idea that conversations with interrogators -- whom Dossari has accused of seriously abusing him -- amount to meaningful human contact.
"The idea of pizza parties and checkers makes me think I should try to find some interrogators for myself," Colangelo-Bryan said. "It sounds like a slumber party."
He said that Dossari appeared despondent during his visit last weekend and that Dossari's suicide attempt came one day after his lawyers were not allowed to return to speak to him. Colangelo-Bryan said he saw Dossari shackled to a wheelchair in the hospital, wearing a neck brace.
The court papers confirmed that Dossari is one of several Guantanamo Bay detainees on a hunger strike.