Prisoners who have been held for years by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are showing signs of “accelerated ageing”, a senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.
Patrick Hamilton, the ICRC’s head of delegation for the US and Canada, said on Friday that the “physical and mental health needs are growing and becoming increasingly challenging” for those still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
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“We’re calling on the US administration and Congress to work together to find adequate and sustainable solutions to address these issues,” Hamilton said in a statement.
“Action should be taken as a matter of priority.”
The Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba was established by US Republican Party President George W Bush in 2002 to house foreign suspects following the 2001 plane attacks on New York and the Pentagon, which killed some 3,000 people.
The camp came to symbolise the brutality of the US’s so-called “war on terror” because of harsh interrogation methods that critics have said amounted to torture.
Hamilton’s comments on the health of the prisoners came after a visit to the facility in March following a 20-year hiatus. He said he was “struck by how those who are still detained today are experiencing the symptoms of accelerated ageing, worsened by the cumulative effects of their experiences and years spent in detention”.
I recently returned from Guantanamo for the first time since 2003. It’s clear to me that with the passage of time the population is rapidly ageing and their needs have evolved. See the full statement here: https://t.co/NQdIqiycDc
— Patrick Hamilton (@PHamiltonICRC) April 21, 2023
He called for detainees to receive adequate mental and physical healthcare as well as more frequent family contact.
The US defence department “is currently reviewing the report”, a Pentagon spokesperson told the Reuters news agency.
There were 40 detainees at Guantanamo when US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office in 2021. The Biden administration has said it wants to close the facility but has not presented a plan for doing so. About 30 detainees remain at the prison.
Two Pakistani brothers held at Guantanamo Bay without trial for more than 20 years were freed by the US in February and returned home. Abdul, 55, and Mohammed Rabbani, 53, were reunited with their families after a formal questioning by Pakistani authorities.
Hamilton called on Washington to resolve the fate of the detainees, urging action to transfer out those eligible.