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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 December 2004

Britain's Guantanamo

EIGHT MEN, imprisoned on suspicion of being 'linked to' terrorism, are suffering from: "Major depressive anxiety disorder and some are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder".

Clare Wilkins

The men have been imprisoned without trial for nearly three years in Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons. They were all arrested soon after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. They were arrested using the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Classified as Category A prisoners they are locked up 20 to 24 hours a day. Six of the men are from Algeria, one from Tunisia and one from Gaza in Palestine.

A team of eleven consultant psychiatrists and one consultant psychologist interviewed the eight men and three of their wives. Their report shows that all of the men have self-harmed and considered suicide.

The psychologist says of the conditions in which the men are held: "Where they have no control of their own situation, this is a sense of mental torture". This is especially so because they have no information about why they are being detained and almost no contact with their families.

The medical team found an alarming similarity in the symptoms of depression and anxiety that the men are suffering. Some of the detainees have developed psychotic symptoms that they did not have before they were imprisoned.

The psychiatrists do not consider that the men's mental health problems can be alleviated while they remain in detention. Indeed: "It is highly likely that they will continue to deteriorate".

Post-traumatic stress

All three wives who were interviewed also show signs of clinical depression and one has post-traumatic stress disorder due to her husband's arrest.

The men's lawyer says that the Home Office was considering transferring four of the eight to Broadmoor, a high security mental hospital.

Police had questioned none of the men before they were arrested. They have not been charged with any offence nor have they been told anything about any evidence against them.

They are being held solely on the basis that the Home Secretary: "Has a suspicion that they are linked to a person or group that might be said to be supportive of the aims of al-Qa'ida".

One of the psychiatrists said that all the men have a sense of hopelessness and helplessness because, unlike other prisoners, they have no idea of when they will be released and no chance of parole.

Three of the detainees experienced detention and torture before they came to Britain. The way they are now being treated is "reminiscent" of their previous trauma.

Recently the men have had a number of privileges withdrawn. They are only allowed books in their own languages if they can pay for an accurate English translation. They are no longer allowed to receive clothes.

Professor Nigel Eastman, who chaired the meeting at the Royal College of Psychiatry about the findings, said that it was not for the experts to question the need for the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act. The findings touch on the mental effects of the legislation and: "Whether as a society, we should have laws that override ordinary civil rights".

Britain is the only country of the 45 states in the Council of Europe to have suspended the legal right to trial in this sort of case. Along with the USA, Britain has a policy of indefinite detention.

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In The Socialist 11 December 2004:

Bring the troops home

US plans crumble in Iraq

Socialist Party campaigns

Schools victory!

Private contractors rip off public services

Saving pensions: united action needed

Britain's Guantanamo

Christmas 2004 Appeal Letter

International socialist news and analysis

USA: Poverty in the world's richest country

Concrete steps towards formation of new party

Italy stops in fifth general strike against Berlusconi

Belgium: Fighting the fascists in Gent

Socialist Party workplace news

Challenge to UNISON'S Labour links by UNISON general secretary candidate

BBC jobs under threat

Fighting the fire service cuts


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