29 September 2023 :
September 21, 2023 - On September 21, 2023, a military judge in Guantanamo Bay ruled that Ramzi Bin al Shibh, one of five defendants in the 9/11 case for whom the death penalty is being sought, is mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Incompetency finding for Ramzi bin al-Shibh means the prosecution of his four co-defendants would continue without him.
Mr. Bin al Shibh, who has been detained for 21 years, will remain in custody at Guantanamo as authorities attempt to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder caused when he was forced to undergo “enhanced interrogations” by the U.S. government.
“The totality of the facts demonstrates an accused who is wholly focused on his delusions,” Military Judge Colonel Matthew McCall wrote in his 11-page opinion. “They disrupt his sleep and lead to outbursts that result in disciplinary confinement measures. The result is a sleep-deprived accused whose primary focus is on stopping attacks, not defending himself against the charged offenses. …The fact that Mr. bin al Shibh understands the vital role that his defense counsel plays and yet, again and again, he focuses his counsel’s work on stopping his delusional harassment, demonstrates the impairment of his ability to assist in his defense.”
Released on August 24, 2023, one publicly available page of an 80-page medical report by a three-member board of the Defense Health Agency confirms Mr. Bin al Shibh’s diagnosis and his present inability to stand trial. Although there is documentation of Mr. Bin al Shibh’s mental health problems since 2004, a complete evaluation was only completed in 2023. A previous attempt in 2008 was never completed due to Mr. Bin al Shibh’s refusal to cooperate, which the board wrote at the time could be the result of a mental disease.
For years, Mr. Bin al Shibh has reported “stabbing pains, vibrations, and burning” resulting from what he believes are “invisible attacks” by authorities and has requested a halt to these attacks before he considers any plea deal. Mr. Bin al Shibh covers, disables, or damages surveillance cameras in response to these “attacks” and subsequently receives solitary confinement as punishment. Since September 7, he has been on a hunger strike in protest of disciplinary isolation, of which he has 30 days left to serve, according to a September 25 press release by his lawyer David Bruck.
Mr. Bruck wrote that “It now remains for the US military authorities on Guantanamo to attempt to treat Mr. Bin al Shibh’s PTSD. This may prove impossible, however. Mr. Bin al Shibh remains under the control of the same authorities who tortured and isolated him, and who have failed to treat his PTSD before now. Moreover, there are no known instances of successful treatment of torture survivors while they remain under the torturing government’s custody and control” (emphasis in original).
Mr. Bin al Shibh, a 50-year-old Yemeni national, has been in U.S. custody since 2002 because of his alleged participation in the 9/11 attacks. From 2002-2006 he was held in solitary confinement at CIA black sites where he was subject to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” some of which included being shackled in a standing position for up to 72 hours, repeatedly slammed against a wooden partition, prolonged forced nudity, and severe food restriction. Mr. Bin al Shibh endured solitary confinement for a year and a half, even after a CIA psychologist warned of its severe and potentially irreversible psychological harm.
Ramzi bin al-Shibh was supposed be on trial on Friday with four other defendants, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
Before the trial, Colonel McCall has decided to remove al-Shibh from the case. The hearing of the other four defendants is expected to proceed as scheduled.
The five men are accused of conspiring in the plane hijackings in 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
Al-Shibh, who is from Yemen and 51 years old, was arrested in Pakistan in September 2002, and transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006.
Al-Shibh was accused of helping organise the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, that hijacked one of two passenger jets that crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York.