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News ID: 107546
Publish Date : 08 October 2022 - 22:04
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WASHINGTON (Middle East Eye) –
Ammar al-Baluchi, who has spent close to two decades at Guantanamo, has been for years suffering from severe brain damage as a result of his treatment at CIA black sites.
And despite Guantanamo Bay’s chief medical officer noting earlier this year that the facilities at the detention centre are inadequate in providing complex treatments for the prison’s ailing and ageing population, the Biden administration is continuing to oppose Baluchi’s requests for an independent commission of medical experts to come to the prison and assess his condition.
Alka Pradhan, Baluchi’s defence lawyer who returned from Guantanamo last week, told Middle East Eye that during her last session with the detainee, his condition was so bad he wasn’t able to read or form complete thoughts.
“Ammar has brain damage, stemming from his time in the black sites - and the effects of that brain damage have become really pronounced in his cognitive abilities,” Pradhan said.
“His ability, for example, to read documents, his ability to put together complex thoughts that would contribute to his defence, his ability to sit with us and strategize are really compromised at this point.”
She added that when it comes to Guantanamo, “there is just no hope in sight for the sort of complex medical care that he needs, both psychological and physical”.
For the past few months, Pradhan has been petitioning the U.S. District Court in Washington DC to grant a mixed medical commission (MMC) - a panel of independent experts made up of a medical officer from the U.S. military and two doctors from a neutral country chosen by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
If granted, the panel could ultimately conclude that Baluchi’s condition requires him to be transferred out of the prison.
The Department of Justice has resisted the MMC request, stating in a September filing that an MMC would not lead to Baluchi’s transfer and that he “will continue to have comprehensive medical care available to him, administered by qualified military staff duty-bound to protect his physical and mental health”.
On Monday, Pradhan submitted a pleading in Baluchi’s case that called into question the Biden administration’s opposition to the request, saying the Department of Justice had failed to respond to the actual petition.
In June, the detention centre’s chief medical officer offered testimony to the military commissions, in which he said that, while primary care was readily available to the prison population, many more specific procedures or treatments were not possible at the base:
“Where you’re going to find difficulties and breakdowns and pinch points are the, you know, when we need to see, for instance, this special study or this special provider.”
Steve Xenakis, a retired U.S. Army brigadier-general and psychiatrist who has been advising on Baluchi’s case for the past decade, said the conditions faced by the detainee were complex and deteriorating.

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