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On Death and Dying. Counsel Visit of February 26-27, 2008

The Guantánamo Blog
by Candace Gorman
March 10, 2007

Counsel for Al-Ghizzawi visited with Al-Ghizzawi all day on February 26th and for a half day on February 27th, 2008. Al-Ghizzawi’s health continues to worsen. The symptoms that Al-Ghizzawi either complained of during this latest visit, or which were observed by counsel for Al-Ghizzawi, include, but are not limited to the following:

1. Al-Ghizzawi continues to be very distraught over being told that he has AIDS. Although counsel showed him the affidavit of Dr. Meneley in which the government claims that Al-Ghizzawi is not HIV positive, Al-Ghizzawi has no particular reason to believe officials of the government that has held him prisoner without charge for more than six years, that has repeatedly lied to him, keeps him in cruel and inhuman isolation and still refuses to treat his known and now admitted medical problems.

2. Al-Ghizzawi was extremely weak, found it difficult to talk and spoke very slowly most of the time. During the meetings Al-Ghizzawi had trouble at times remembering conversations that were ongoing and had difficulty completing sentences. This is a symptom that has worsened over the last few meetings.

3. Al-Ghizzawi continues to be very jaundiced and now has very dark circles under his eyes. He looked extremely fatigued.

4. Further, Al-Ghizzawi’s diarrhea has worsened. He now complains of diarrhea 4-6 times per day and complains of having several accidents where the diarrhea comes on so quickly he cannot get to the toilet in time. Most of the time he washes his soiled underwear and clothes in his cell. He complained that the area around his anus is extremely so[re] and uncomfortable from the constant diarrhea.

5. Al-Ghizzawi stated that the doctor wanted to give him amoxicillin for five days and another medicine (counsel does not recall the name but it is in her notes) to see if that will help with the diarrhea. Al-Ghizzawi explained to the doctor that when the guards bring him the pills they bring very cold water for him to swallow the medicine and he cannot drink the cold water. According to Al-Ghizzawi he asked the doctor if he would please put a note in with the medicine instructing the guards to give him warm water, but the doctor refused this simple request, and Al-Ghizzawi is therefore not even able to take the medicine.

6. Al-Ghizzawi tried not to drink very much water during the meeting with counsel because drinking water sometimes triggers the diarrhea. As usual, he politely and graciously refused the various items counsel brought for him to eat. Just before the meeting ended on Wednesday Al-Ghizzawi took a drink of water and immediately had an intense pain on his right side causing him to bend over in pain for several minutes.

7. Al-Ghizzawi stated that he is also having difficulty urinating because it is very painful for him to urinate and his urine is now dark in color.

8. Al-Ghizzawi’s eyes are extremely weak, itchy and watery. He no longer reads. Counsel read to him several of her letters that he never received and one unopened letter that he had with him but which he did not open because he knew he could not read it. He stated that if he tries to read he becomes nauseous and the diarrhea starts again. He also stated he can no longer look at pictures for the same reason.

9. In the fall the base clinic prescribed eyeglasses for Al-Ghizzawi but they are for distance and not for reading… Al-Ghizzawi has no use for distance glasses as there is no where far away that he can look at in his tiny cell. The reason for reading glasses may be age related as Dr. Meneley suggested in his affidavit at ¶9 “There is no evidence of deterioration of the detainee’s eyesight other than that associated with the changes of age and genetic predisposition.” (emphasis added) The fact that Al-Ghizzawi has reached the ripe old age of 45 and that the need for reading glasses can arguably be explained by the aging process or by a “genetic predisposition” does not lead to the absurd conclusion that reading glasses should not be provided. In fact, many of us, counsel included, would not be able to read because of the effects of aging eyes and genetic predispositions if eyeglasses were not available.

10. Al-Ghizzawi complains that he is still cold all of the time and complains of both chills and fever, especially when having his many bouts of diarrhea.

11. Al-Ghizzawi complained that his whole body is in constant pain. The areas that he complained of as being the worst are: around his kidney and liver areas; his lower back (shooting paralyzing pain); his thighs are swollen and stiff; his arm pits are very painful; his ears hurt and his throat constantly tightens up making it hard to swallow. His legs are weak and painful making it very difficult to walk and he has twisted his knee on several occasions because his legs are too weak to hold his frail body up.

12. His skin and scalp remain extremely itchy.

13. Al-Ghizzawi showed counsel his arms that were very red and with a deep scratch in one arm. He stated it was from the restraints that the guards put on him a few days earlier when they were moving him from place to place.

14. When counsel spoke with Al-Ghizzawi about the military claim that he has gained weight he stated they often take his weight with the heavy hand and foot shackles on to boost the numbers.

15. At the meeting between Al-Ghizzawi and Counsel on Wednesday February 27, 2008 Al-Ghizzawi brought in a piece of paper with some notes. He stated that the clinic wanted to run some blood tests on him. Al-Ghizzawi does not trust or respect the medical clinic and he told them he would give an answer after meeting with his lawyer. Two of the tests were tests that Dr. Jürg Reichen suggested and counsel asked Al-Ghizzawi to allow the tests. He said he would let the doctors know immediately that he will allow those tests but he still adamantly refuses to allow the military to do the unnecessary and potentially dangerous biopsy.

16. During the Wednesday meeting Al-Ghizzawi was very depressed. He learned that during the Tuesday meeting with counsel an ICRC representative came to see him (not a medical representative). Since he was not in his cell the representative gave a report to one of the prisoners in the same block to tell Al-Ghizzawi. When Al-Ghizzawi returned from the attorney meeting the other prisoner shouted the information to Al-Ghizzawi through the small hole in the floor of his cell door where the food is pushed in. The prisoner yelled to Al-Ghizzawi, (who stretched out on the floor of his cell with his ear to the hole in his cell door so he could hear the report) that the ICRC visited with Al-Ghizzawi’s wife and daughter in Afghanistan for the first time and that their situation is very bad. He told Al-Ghizzawi that his wife is caring for her father who is now blind and unable to walk (her mother died while Al-Ghizzawi has been held at Guantanamo). That in addition to caring for their own six year old daughter she also cares for her sister’s young child (her sister and her husband are also recently deceased but Al-Ghizzawi does not know how they died) and she cares for several of her nine siblings, (the youngest of whom is seven years old). The ICRC reported to the other prisoner that Al-Ghizzawi’s family is in extreme poverty and destitution.

17. Al-Ghizzawi stated that he spends his days sleeping … it is all he can do.

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