Report from Guantánamo: suicidal teen subjected to sleep deprivation

Sahr MuhammedAlly [Senior Associate, Law and Security Program, Human Rights First]: "Mohammed Jawad, who has been in Guantánamo for five years since he was 16 or 17 years old, was subjected to the "frequent flyer program" in May 2004. According to defense lawyer Air Force Major Dave Frakt, based on a review of DIMS (Detainee Information Management Systems - a daily log kept of detainees at Guantánamo), which was recently provided by the prosecution to the defense, during a two-week period, Jawad was woken up from him cell and moved to different cells 112 times every 2 hours 55 minutes. Jawad had been interrogated 21 times prior to being subjected to the frequent flyer program and was not interrogated during the two-week period. He was again interrogated in September 2004.

(Notably, in the Omar Khadr case, another teen held at Guantánamo, the prosecution has resisted providing DIMS to the defense prompting military commission Judge Peter Brownback to threaten an abatement of the proceedings unless DIMS was produced to the defense by May 22).

The FBI reported observing the use of the "frequent flyer program" on detainees in the fall of 2003. The program was used on detainees who were deemed uncooperative and were placed on a list to be subjected to special sleep-deprivation tactics. The prisoners were moved frequently from cellblock to cellblock at intervals of two to four hours to interrupt their sleep. The recently released 370-page Department of Justice Inspector General report describes key tactics used by the government after September 11 including the "frequent flyer program," use of strobe lights in conjunction with loud rock music, twisting of thumbs backward, and exposure of detainees to extreme temperatures, threatening dogs, pornography and sexual taunting.

In 2003, sleep deprivation was being used as an interrogation technique in Guantánamo. The 2003 Pentagon Working Group Report, approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, lists sleep deprivation for 4 days as an approved interrogation method. A 2005 military investigation (Army Regulation 15-16: Final Report) noted that the frequent flyer program was used at Guantánamo but was terminated by JTF-GTMO commander in March 2004. Yet Jawad was subjected to the program in May 2004 - two months after it allegedly ended.

On May 8, 2008, when I observed Jawad at his pre-trial military commissions hearing he appeared agitated and told the court that he had "been punished a lot" and was woken up from sleep at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., subjected to bright lights for 24 hours, threatened that he would spend his whole life in Guantánamo, and falsely promised that he would be able to get out. The recent revelation by Jawad's lawyer based on a review of government records confirmed that Jawad indeed was subjected to sleep deprivation and the frequent flyer program.

Major Frakt also discovered that Jawad had attempted to commit suicide in December 2003. Nevertheless, JTF-GTMO personnel chose to subject a suicidal prisoner to sleep deprivation four months later.

Major Frakt has requested a mental health evaluation and has filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on the allegations he was subjected to the sleep deprivation technique. Major Frakt has also filed a motion to dismiss based on unlawful influence on the prosecution by the legal advisor to the convening authority Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann on the case. Jawad's next hearing is scheduled for June 18.

Jawad is charged with attempted murder and intent to cause serious bodily injury in violation of the laws of war. The grenade incident injured two U.S. soldiers and an Afghan interpreter injured in Kabul on December 17, 2002. He faces no charges of terrorism, material support, or any connection to al-Qaeda or the Taliban."

"Report from Guantanamo" features regular contributions to JURIST Hotline from Human Rights First

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