Detainees who remain at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba are showing symptoms of accelerating ageing, according to a senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross who was alarmed by the detainees’ physical and living conditions during a recent visit.
“I was particularly struck by how those who are still detained today are experiencing the symptoms of accelerated ageing, worsened by the cumulative effects of their experiences and years spent in detention,” Patrick Hamilton, the ICRC head of delegation for the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement. His last visit before the most recent one was in 2003.
“There is a need for a more comprehensive approach if the U.S. is to continue holding detainees over the years to come,” Hamilton said.
He called for the detainees to receive “access to adequate health care that accounts for both deteriorating mental and physical conditions.” In addition, he said the infrastructure of the facility should be adapted “for the detainees’ evolving needs and disabilities.”
A “comprehensive approach” is also needed, he said, to improve the quality of contact the detainees have with their families.
Hamilton said the ICRC is calling on the Biden administration and Congress “to work together to find adequate and sustainable solutions” to the detainees’ issues.
“If there is a likelihood that even a small number of people are going to be held longer at this facility, the planning for an ageing population cannot afford to wait,” he said.
Guantanamo Bay holds Muslim militants and suspected terrorists apprehended by U.S. forces following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.