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Lawyers argue prisoner too ill to remain at Guantanamo

Defense lawyers for detainee Ibrahim Idris [NYT profile] have argued that he is too mentally and physically ill to remain at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] in a habeas corpus petition [text, PDF] filed at the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Rather than contend his innocence, Idris' court-appointed defense lawyer Jennifer Cowan is arguing that his mental and physical illnesses are too debilitating for him to remain a threat, so, according to both domestic and international law, he should be repatriated to his native Sudan. One of the first 20 prisoners to arrive at Camp X-Ray, Idris has been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba since January 2002. Within weeks of his arrival, Idris was diagnosed with Disorganized Type Schizophrenia and has spent most of his nearly 12 years of detention at the prison's mental health facility. A psychological evaluation filed with the petition chronicles Idris' deteriorating mental health, stating that he often donned and removed multiple layers of clothing, spoke with an "invisible tormentor," and suffers visual hallucinations. Furthermore, the evaluation suggests that Idris was moved to the hospital in part because "[h]is fellow detainees have grown weary of tolerating his psychotic behavior." Because a prisoner of war may only be held until "[h]e is disarmed and from then on must be removed as completely as practicable from the front," Cowen argues that his social isolation, coupled with the lack of available healthcare in Sudan, would make it nearly impossible for Idris to engage in hostilities if he were repatriated, relieving any threat to the US. Lawyers for the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] have not commented on the case but will have to respond to the petition by July 15.

The petition was filed on the same day US military released a report [text, PDF] criticizing Guantanamo's medical staff for not following regulations, which led to the suicide of Adnan Latif [Al Jazeera report], a prisoner diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. Earlier this month an inmate accused the military [JURIST report] of sexually assaulting him and other hunger-strikers as a form of punishment. Last month a federal judge called on members of Congress and President Barack Obama [official website] to give serious consideration to formulating a different approach [JURIST report] for the handling of Guantanamo Bay detainee cases. Just days prior Obama appointed [JURIST report] Clifford Sloan to be the new envoy in charge of closing Guantanamo Bay. The appointment follows a speech [JURIST report] Obama made in May that outlined US counterterrorism policy and efforts. In his speech, he detailed the steps needed to get prisoners out of Guantanamo, but cautioned that he cannot close the facility on his own. In contrast, the House Armed Services Committee [official website] approved [JURIST report] the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [HR 1960, PDF] in early June, which allocates more than 200 million dollars to keep the detention center open.

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