Mentally Ill Gitmo Detainee Seeks Medical Review

U.S. Tortured Him Knowing History of Psychosis

April 19, 2018, Washington, D.C. –
Today, attorneys urged a federal judge to appoint a Mixed Medical Commission to assess whether Guantánamo prisoner Mohammed al Qahtani’s mental illness is so severe that he must be repatriated. Al Qahtani is the only Guantánamo prisoner the U.S. government has explicitly acknowledged torturing. His attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law say he is deeply psychologically unwell, and seek his repatriation from Guantánamo into custodial psychiatric care in Saudi Arabia.

“Mr. Al Qahtani was already suffering from psychosis when he was brought to Guantanamo and systematically tortured,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Managing Attorney Shayana Kadidal. “His psychosis casts serious doubt on all the government speculations that led them to torture him in the first place. He belongs in a psychiatric hospital in Saudi Arabia, not talking to the walls of a cell in Guantánamo.”

A Mixed Medical Commission is a mechanism under domestic U.S. law and the Geneva Convention for an impartial medical evaluation of whether a detainee is so medically unfit that he must be repatriated. An initial medical review by Dr. Emily Keram, the only psychiatrist independent of the U.S. government known to have evaluated Al Qahtani in the 16 years he has spent at Guantánamo, concluded that he suffers from schizophrenia, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a possible neurocognitive disorder, and that he will likely require lifelong medical care.

“Our client will not recover at Guantánamo, and his condition is worsening steadily,” said Ramzi Kassem, professor of law at CUNY School of Law and co-director of its Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic, who argued today. “The court should order a proper medical assessment before that harm is irreparable.”

Al Qahtani has been detained at Guantánamo since 2002. Charges against him have been issued and dropped several times, including following revelations that evidence against him had been obtained through torture. He was the victim of the Pentagon’s “First Special Interrogation Plan,” a regime of torture personally authorized by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Between November 2002 and January 2003, al Qahtani was subjected to 48 days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual and religious humiliation, physical violence, prolonged stress positions, and sensory overstimulation, among other abuses. He was hospitalized twice after coming close to death while being interrogated. His treatment was partially detailed in a military interrogation log published by Time Magazine in 2006.

For more information, visit CCR’s case page.

The Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic (INRC) is based out of Main Street Legal Services, Inc., the clinical arm of CUNY School of Law. INRC was one of the first immigration law clinics in the nation and has a distinguished record of litigation and advocacy in support of communities and their organizations. It provides legal services for immigrants and non-citizens seeking either to be free from U.S. custody or to live in the U.S. without fear, exploitation, or subordination.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for more than 16 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. CCR is responsible for many Guantánamo cases in many venues, representing men in their habeas cases in federal court and before the military commissions and Periodic Review Boards, the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking accountability in international courts.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

April 20, 2018