The Hippocratic Oath Dies in Gitmo

H. Candace Gorman

I have been rep­re­sent­ing Abdul Al-Ghiz­za­wi, one of my Guan­tá­namo clients, for two and a half years. The day I took on his case, I knew lit­tle about him oth­er than he was seri­ous­ly ill. My goal from that day for­ward has been to ascer­tain what is wrong with Al-Ghiz­za­wi and get him the med­ical care he needs. 

The dungeon masters at Guantanamo moved Al-Ghizzawi to Camp 6, a supermax facility where prisoners are kept in isolation.

In the fall of 2006, Dr. Jürg Reichen, a respect­ed liv­er spe­cial­ist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bern in Switzer­land, filed an affi­davit in which he tes­ti­fied that, based on the symp­toms described by Al-Ghiz­za­wi and based on my own obser­va­tions of Al-Ghiz­za­wi, it seemed like­ly that he was suf­fer­ing from hepati­tis B and per­haps liv­er can­cer. Reichen would have been able to make a more con­clu­sive diag­no­sis with my client’s med­ical records, but the gov­ern­ment has refused to turn them over. 

In response to Reichen’s affi­davit, the gov­ern­ment pro­vid­ed an affi­davit from its med­ical direc­tor at the base, one Dr. Ronald Sol­lock. Sol­lock signed a sworn state­ment claim­ing that Al-Ghiz­za­wi received a full med­ical screen­ing upon his arrival in 2002 and had indeed test­ed pos­i­tive for hepati­tis. More­over, he appeared to have con­tract­ed tuber­cu­lo­sis at some point in 2004. Despite these alarm­ing diag­noses, Sol­lock insist­ed that my client was just fine” (as if TB and hepati­tis indi­cat­ed good health). 

Although Al-Ghiz­za­wi signed a release allow­ing me to receive his med­ical records, Judge John D. Bates, a George W. Bush appointee in the U.S. Dis­trict Court for D.C., refused to order the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide Al-Ghiz­za­wi med­ical treat­ment, or me his med­ical records.

Bates found that I had not demon­strat­ed that irrepara­ble harm” would befall Al-Ghiz­za­wi if the gov­ern­ment did not pro­vide the med­ical care or records. How Bates could expect me to demon­strate that my client would suf­fer irrepara­ble harm with­out my first hav­ing access to those very records is beyond me. I queried whether I would have to wait for my client to die before the nec­es­sary irrepara­ble harm” could be shown, but Bates refused to recon­sid­er his Kafkaesque deci­sion and I filed an appeal with the D.C. Cir­cuit Court. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for my client, that court has been too busy unrav­el­ing our Con­sti­tu­tion and the appeal has sat untouched since late 2006.

At about the same time I filed the appeal, the dun­geon mas­ters at Guan­tá­namo moved Al-Ghiz­za­wi to the noto­ri­ous Camp 6, a super­max facil­i­ty where all of the pris­on­ers are kept in severe iso­la­tion. The author­i­ties had nev­er con­sid­ered my client to be a prob­lem pris­on­er” so I could not under­stand this puni­tive move. When I ques­tioned mil­i­tary offi­cials, they told me they had placed him in Camp 6 because that was the facil­i­ty now being used for the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion. The cru­el­ty of putting this seri­ous­ly ill man in soli­tary con­fine­ment seemed beyond the pale, even for this bunch. 

But now I won­der. I won­der about those tests that sup­pos­ed­ly weren’t ready when Sol­lock signed his affi­davit. Did those tests show some­thing that the mil­i­tary did not want to acknowl­edge? And is that the real rea­son Al-Ghiz­za­wi was moved to Camp 6?

On Jan. 14, 2008, I received a let­ter Al-Ghiz­za­wi wrote on Dec. 25, 2007 (a week after my last vis­it). In his let­ter, Al-Ghiz­za­wi stated:

One Amer­i­can doc­tor in the same Camp where I am detained has con­firmed that I have AIDS, and that’s after my last vis­it to him dur­ing this cur­rent month (Decem­ber) and has promised me he will do the nec­es­sary regard­ing these facts. There­fore, this will be my last wit­ness on my infec­tion with the sick­ness. Based on this, I would like you to ask the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment to pro­vide some infor­ma­tion on this case, and the rea­son they hid this truth all the time I am detained, and to also pro­vide the nec­es­sary treatment.

So there you have it. We know from Sollock’s affi­davit that Al-Ghiz­za­wi arrived at Guan­tá­namo HIV-free in June 2002 and we know from Al-Ghiz­za­wi that his health start­ed to dete­ri­o­rate in 2004. Upon learn­ing of this AIDS diag­no­sis, I sent an e‑mail to the gov­ern­ment attor­ney ask­ing if he would con­firm or deny that Al-Ghiz­za­wi has AIDS. Instead of answer­ing my sim­ple ques­tion, the attor­ney sent this unre­spon­sive statement: 

We are not privy to the par­tic­u­lars of what your client may have been told by his doc­tor, if any­thing, but Guan­tá­namo pro­vides high-qual­i­ty med­ical care to all detainees.

I have a long list of indi­vid­u­als that should be tried as war crim­i­nals. Sol­lock has now leapfrogged to the top of that list, fol­lowed close­ly by cer­tain attorneys. 

H. Can­dace Gor­man is a civ­il rights attor­ney in Chica­go. She blogs reg­u­lar­ly about legal issues sur­round­ing Guan­tanamo detainees at The Guan­tanamo Blog.
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