HRW, Locked Up Alone (Jawad)

[Mohammed] Jawad, a 22- or 23-year-old Afghan (he does not know his exact birth date), has been in US custody since he was 17. He was captured by Afghan police on December 17, 2002, and handed over to US forces the same day. According to his military defense lawyer, Jawad was briefly held at Bagram Air Base and transported to Guantanamo in January 2003.

Although other children detained at Guantanamo were given special housing and education programs, and were eventually released to rehabilitative programs in Afghanistan, the United States ignored Jawad’s status as an alleged juvenile offender. He was housed with adults and reportedly subjected to psychologically manipulative interrogations, including being moved from cell to cell and deprived of sleep, a process that has been described as the “detainee frequent flier program.” On December 25, 2003, about 11 months after arriving at Guantanamo, Jawad reportedly tried to commit suicide by hanging himself by his shirt collar.

Jawad received minimal if any educational programming or rehabilitative assistance. After more than five years in Guantanamo, he remains functionally illiterate. It is unclear in which camps Jawad has been held over the years. During his two appearances before military commissions, he has said that he has lost track of time and cannot remember where he was held at which times. However, he is currently being held in Camp 6.95

In October 2007 the US government announced that it was charging Jawad with attempted murder for throwing a grenade into a US army vehicle that injured two US soldiers and their Afghan interpreter in December 2002. He was formally charged before a military commission in January 2008.

When Jawad tried to boycott his March 12 arraignment before the military commissions, he was forcibly extracted from his cell and brought to court in shackles. He told his military defense counsel, Major David Frakt, that he was subsequently punished by the removal of “comfort items”—such as a T-shirt, one of his two styrofoam cups, and his book.96

At his May 8 appearance before the military commission, Jawad complained that he cannot even communicate with those in the cells near him because he is surrounded by Arabs and he speaks Pashto, not Arabic. “There were some Afghans, but they were far away,” he told the commission.97

Frakt informed the military commission judge that he is extremely concerned about Jawad’s mental state. He said that Jawad appears to have lost track of time and lost touch with reality, that he suffers from severe depression and headaches, which he attributes to the fluorescent lights that are left on in his cell 24 hours a day, and that he has very little understanding of the legal process at Guantanamo. He told the commission that he had serious concerns as to whether Jawad was capable of aiding in his defense, and requested that his client be taken out of Camp 6 and moved to a “quiet, restful place where he can rehabilitate.” He also requested that Jawad be examined by a mental health professional. The judge, Colonel Peter Brownback, asked Frakt to put the requests in writing, and in the meantime, Jawad is still being housed in Camp 6.98


95. Email communication from Maj. David Frakt, attorney for Mohammed Jawad, to Human Rights Watch, May 22, 2008.

96. Human Rights Watch interview with Maj. David Frakt, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, May 7, 2008; Email communication from Maj. David Frakt to Human Rights Watch, June 10, 2008. 97 Human Rights Watch, which has been granted observer status at the military commissions, was present in Guantanamo at this hearing.

98. Ibid.

Source: Human Rights Watch, Locked Up Alone: Detention Conditions and Mental Health at Guantanamo. June, 2008, pp. 37-9