September 5, 2019, New York – Today, a newly publicly-released court filing revealed that a Guantánamo prisoner has attempted suicide. According to an emergency motion filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, client Sharqawi Al Hajj cut his wrists with a piece of glass while on a recent call with his lawyer, after making specific statements in prior weeks about wanting to “try to kill himself.” Attorneys are due in federal court tomorrow to urge an immediate independent psychiatric assessment of Mr. Al Hajj to prevent further harm or death.
“Any notion that Mr. Al Hajj is not actively suicidal is deliberately blind or indifferent. For months he has made increasingly hopeless and suicidal statements of intent and planning, culminating in an actual premeditated attempt, in a context where the outlook couldn’t be bleaker – no prospect of release after more than 17 years of captivity,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei. “When similar behavior by Guantánamo detainees in the past has not been taken seriously, detainees have died. Mr. Al Hajj’s actions must be treated with the utmost gravity and care by everyone with responsibility over him.”
Attorneys began raising alarms about Mr. Al Hajj two years ago, after he fell unconscious following a hunger strike during which he stopped drinking water. At the time, medical experts warned the court that Mr. Al Hajj was in danger or “imminent irreparable harm” and “on the precipice of total bodily collapse.” They cited both pre-existing health conditions as well as the effects of Mr. Al Hajj’s indefinite detention—now at over 17 years—including over two years of torture in secret CIA custody. In response to his deteriorating condition, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed an emergency motion—in September 2017—for the release of Mr. Al Hajj’s medical records and an evaluation by an independent doctor. The court has not yet ruled on that motion.
Since then, Mr. Al Hajj’s mental and physical health have been in steady decline. His attorneys filed an urgent request to appear before the court in October 2018 out of concern for Mr. Al Hajj’s mental health, and again in August 2019, when he made unprecedented suicidal statements. The motion disclosed today was filed on August 22, and reveals that Mr. Al Hajj cut his wrists while on a call with his attorney on August 19.
For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.
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 ccrjustice.org.