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HRW, Locked Up Alone ("Walid")

Walid62 is a 28-year-old Palestinian. Reportedly sold to the United States by the Pakistani security forces, Walid was among the first arrivals to Guantanamo Bay in early 2002. As of February 2008, he was “approved to leave” yet he continues to be housed in high-security Camp 5, where he has been held since early 2007.63 Since his arrest, Walid has had very little contact with his family, who thought he was dead until, several years after his initial detention, he was able to send them a postcard. He has not, to his lawyer’s knowledge, been able to speak with any of his family members. Since learning of his whereabouts in 2005, his family has been writing to him and has sent him photos—including pictures of nieces and nephews he has never met.

Around 2003 or 2004 Walid went on a hunger strike for 20 months and was force-fed through intubation. At one point Walid, who is approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed only 96 pounds.64

His attorneys report that they have long been worried about Walid’s mental health, which they believe has been deteriorating over time. They describe him as lethargic, listless, and distracted, and took the following notes of his speech:

I love cowboys. I love Indians. I feel like they’re my family…. I knew an Indian woman in Gaza—she talked a witch language. I won’t tell you her name because she might send me a witch curse…. Tarzan is a lovely person—very polite—he’s my friend, though he doesn’t [know] it. I don’t watch for entertainment but for another reason—a secret—I won’t tell you…. I live in heaven, heaven is in my chest. I love Jesus, I want to see him, and all the mermaids around them.65

After the US denied Walid’s lawyers’ requests to release Walid’s medical records, and knowing that they would not be allowed to bring in an independent psychiatrist to evaluate Walid in person, they turned to their next-best option. They retained Dr. Daryl Matthews, a psychiatrist once hired by the Department of Defense to evaluate the mental health facilities at Guantanamo, and asked him to prepare a questionnaire by which he could do a proxy psychological assessment of Walid. Based on the results of this questionnaire, Dr. Matthews has concluded that Walid appears to have developed schizophrenia, and suffers from delusions, significant anxiety, and depression.

Dr. Matthews noted that the “development of a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia is one of the known adverse consequences, albeit relatively infrequent, in populations exposed to isolation and other forms of severe maltreatment in confinement.” Dr. Matthews believes that Walid’s condition will only deteriorate while confined at Guantanamo.66


62. Walid’s full name is not included in order to protect his privacy and at his attorney’s request.
63. Email communication from Navy Commander Bree Ermentrout, staff judge advocate to Matthew O’Hara (attorney for Walid), February 7, 2008; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Matthew O’Hara, May 7, 2008.
64. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Matthew O’Hara, May 7, 2008.
65 Letter from Dr. Daryl B. Matthews, M.D., Ph.D., to Matthew O’Hara, March 7, 2008 (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).
66 Ibid.

Source: Human Rights Watch, Locked Up Alone. Detention Conditions and Mental Health at Guantanamo. June, 2008, pp. 24f.