United States of America

Guantanamo: USA must provide medical treatment for Ammar al-Baluchi, a victim of its torture programme

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) today called on the United States authorities to provide for Guantánamo detainee Ammar al-Baluchi to be medically assessed by an independent medical panel and be provided with the medical treatment and rehabilitative services he needs.

Ammar al-Baluchi, a victim of enforced disappearance and prolonged torture at the hands of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is currently detained by the US Government at the detention centre at Guantánamo Bay. He was abducted in Pakistan, subjected to enforced disappearance beginning on 29 April 2003 and held incommunicado under the CIA-led rendition, secret detention and interrogation programme for over three years. During that time, he passed through five secret detention sites to end up at Guantánamo Bay. He has been held there since 2006.

During his secret detention, Ammar al-Baluchi was repeatedly subjected to various forms of torture, including “walling”, where he had his head banged against the wall for up to two hours at a time. He was also allegedly subjected to sleep deprivation over a period of more than two years, mock drowning, stress positions, and beatings. He has been diagnosed with severe brain damage and numerous other ailments as a result of his treatment, including chronic pain, memory impairment, vertigo, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

There is a lack of appropriate medical expertise and facilities at the Guantánamo detention centre. The authorities have declined for some 16 years to provide access to necessary treatment, either at Guantánamo or by transferring Ammar al-Baluchi to a proper facility outside Guantánamo.

Neither Ammar al-Baluchi nor any other detainees in the now well-documented CIA torture and secret detention programme have had access to an effective remedy or reparation for the atrocities they suffered.

Ammar Al Baluchi is a torture survivor, and the deprivation of effective medical treatment while still in detention constitutes a continuing act of torture against him”, said Ian Seiderman, Director of the Law and Policy Office of the International Commission of Jurists. “The extraordinarily inhumane treatment meted out to him over what is now nearly two decades is compounded by the failure to allow him access to medical and psychological care.”

The torture, enforced disappearance and denial of an effective remedy breach US international legal obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture, to which the US is a party. Torture and enforced disappearance are crimes under international law.

The four organisations therefore call the US Government to provide Ammar al-Baluchi with the medical and rehabilitation services he desperately needs and ensure all detainees in Guantánamo have access to medical care.


International human rights law obligations

The deprivation of medical and psychological healthcare for a torture survivor held in detention constitutes a violation of the following obligations the USA has contracted under international human rights law:

  • The prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under articles 1 and 2 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
  • The right to humane treatment of persons held in detention under article 10 ICCPR;
  • The obligation to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under articles 2 and 16 CAT;
  • The obligation to provide redress and rehabilitation to torture survivors under article 2(3) of the ICCPR and 14 CAT.

In 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention asked the United States to “release Mr. al Baluchi immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, such as appropriate physical and psychological rehabilitation for the torture he has suffered”. The Working Group on Arbitrary detention further urges the United States to “ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. al Baluchi, including an independent inquiry into his allegations of torture, and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.” This decision remains unimplemented.