Fears for Shaker Aamer as Pentagon reveals ‘mind-altering drugs’ forcibly used on Guantánamo prisoners

July 12, 2012

Londoner Shaker Aamer may have been among those forcibly administered “mind-altering drugs” by the US military, either as part of an interrogation or as a de facto disciplinary measure – tactics revealed in a recently-declassified Pentagon report.

Shaker, the last remaining British resident in Guantánamo Bay, has been held without charge or trial for over a decade. He is known to have suffered abuse and punishing isolation as a result of his early efforts to mediate between prisoners and guards.

Now it has emerged that many Guantánamo prisoners have been routinely injected with powerful anti-psychotic sedatives, with so-called “uncooperative” detainees forced to take regular injections euphemistically called “chemical restraints”. According to the declassified report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General, which was obtained by Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold of Truthout via a Freedom of Information Act request, prisoners were often not told what medications they received, and other reports have suggested that they were tricked into believing routine flu shots were truth serums.

The only drug explicitly named in the report was Haldol, a relatively cheap anti-psychotic sedative which causes intense grogginess. Side effects include depression, muscle contractions, suicidal behavior, long-term movement disorders and life-threatening neurological disorders. Less commonly, the drug can cause heart problems leading to sudden death. Previously, it emerged that massive quantities of mefloquine, an anti-malarial drug with severe side effects, were also given to detainees; an Army physician called this process ‘pharmacological waterboarding’.

Reprieve is calling on the British Goverment to seek answers from the US as to whether Shaker Aamer was among the prisoners exposed to this treatment.

Shaker arrived in Guantánamo Bay on the day his youngest child was born, a son he has never met. He was cleared for release by the Bush Administration in 2007, and it has been publicly reported that he has also been cleared by the Obama Administration. He wishes to rejoin his British wife and four British children in the UK.

Reprieve’s legal director Cori Crider said: “While Shaker has an irrepressible spirit, the authorities seem determined to grind him down to nothing. During his imprisonment he has lost forty percent of his body weight; he now suffers from multiple illnesses and injuries and his face bears the marks of intense suffering. Now we find that prisoners have been forced to take drugs with dangerous side-effects. The British government must immediately seek answers from the US as to whether Shaker was fed these chemicals, and demand that he is freed from Guantanamo before it is too late.”

Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith said: “It is inconceivable that our closest ally could hold Shaker, the father of four little British children, for ten years without charge, and for five years after he has been cleared for release. Surely the UK is not totally impotent when it comes to protecting such basic human rights.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information please go to http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/shakeraamer/  or contact Donald Campbell or Katherine O’Shea in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0)20 7427 1082

2. Read Clive Stafford Smith’s latest letter to Foreign Secretary William Hague on Shaker Aamer.

3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK;; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.