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Drugged Against His Will

Image: Jared Rodriguez / truthout; Adapted: Okko Pyykkö, electron

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.”

Article 7, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

When the Australian government recently dropped the proceeds of crime case against David Hicks, it was clear that the full story around his detention and eventual plea deal was something that the Government preferred was left in the past.

Some of the evidence that was to be submitted to the court by the Australian government was David Hicks’ medical records, ironically, in an attempt to prove that David was not mistreated. However, the medical records show a darker side to Guantanamo’s ‘medical care’.

Some of the records were not even his, and they indicate that he was given medications that were prescribed for another detainee. The records also appear to show that at one point David was given three different kinds of multi-vitamins. When David had surgery after developing a double hernia, he was chained to the hospital bed, and sedated with Ambien.

David Hicks recounts several stories of forced drugging in his book, Guantanamo: My Journey, including times when he was given pills and injections against his will and occasions where he was refused medical care.

“My permission was not sought nor had I any choice when it came to being forced fed tablets, or the numerous injections that we were all given. Many blood tests were also taken consistently over the years I was detained.” David Hicks

David’s claims correlate with the medical records provided by the Australian government which were incomplete. For example, the names of drugs and dosages had been redacted- something that a former Guantanamo Bay  medical officer was unable to explain.

Which drugs were used? 


Mefloquine was given in high doses to all Guantanamo Bay detainees. It is a drug used to treat malaria but is also known to cause severe side effects including hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, panic attacks, bizarre dreams and suicidal thoughts.


Scopolamine, which is also known as a ‘truth drug’, was forcibly given to Guantanamo Bay detainees. Scopolamine patches are sometimes used as a last resort to cease motion sickness. Scopolamine’s side effects include psychotic reactions, blurred vision, memory problems, impaired attention and alertness, disorientation, urinary retention and a lowered heart rate.

Drugged when read charges

GI Cocktail’s are usually given to soldiers to assist with reflux and other stomach problems. The medical records show that David was given a number of these over the years, however, David describes that after the doses, he was so tired he could not function normally or respond effectively to situations. In David’s book, he describes being given a GI Cocktail on the day he was read the charges.  Joshua Dratel’s affidavit to the court provided further evidence to support David’s experience. Mr Dratel states he confronted the guards about the sedative and they acknowledged that they did in fact sedate him. Apart from the ethical issues associated with drugging someone against their will, this practice is unlawful under international law.

In an interview with Truthout, Scott Horton (Human rights Attorney) noted;

“The administration of drugs for non-medical purposes on prisoners held in wartime raises very serious issues under the Geneva Conventions – which establish a presumption that such use of drugs is generally unlawful and may rise to the level of a grave breach, or war crime – as well as other international agreements.”

David’s Health

David suffered many significant health problems whilst in Guantanamo, including a double hernia, a blown ear drum, painful cysts, broken bones (from beatings on transit to Gitmo, and stress fractures in his feet in Guantanamo) and drug induced psychosis. Because of the many redactions in his medical records, the full extent of his ongoing health issues may never be known. Also of significant concern is the fact that David was denied blood tests upon return to Australia. This raises serious questions about what was in his system, and why they would hide this information from him.

We must have an investigation into David Hicks’ treatment in US custody if we are to ever prevent this from occurring again. Impunity breeds a contempt for human rights and due process.

For in-depth articles related to the drugging of Guantanamo prisoners, visit Truthout.
Main Image: Jared Rodriguez / truthout; Adapted: Okko Pyykkö, electron