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On June 10, 2006 three prisoners held by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps allegedly committed suicide. The United States Department of Defense (DoD) stopped reporting Guantanamo suicide attempts in 2002.

In mid-2002 the DoD changed the way they classified suicide attempts, calling them "self-injurious behavior". The DoD acknowledges 41 suicide attempts among 29 detainees.[1] The June 10, 2006 suicides were the first inmate deaths at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp.

On January 24, 2005 the U.S. military revealed that there were 350 incidents of self-harm in 2003.[2] 120 of those incidents of self-harm were attempts by detainees to hang themselves. 23 detainees participated in a simultaneous mass-suicide attempt.

Three Guantanamo captives die reportedly of suicides on June 10, 2006

On June 10, 2006 the three prisoners Mani al-Utaybi, Yasser al-Zahrani, and Ali Abdullah Ahmed died in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps.[3]

According to Pentagon they "killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact".[4] Prison commander Rear Admiral Harry Harris has stated: "This was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetric warfare committed against us." [5] Harris also stated that the Guantanamo detainees were: "dangerous, committed to killing Americans."[6]. He claimed that there was a myth among the detainees that if three detainees were known to have died in the camps the DoD would be pressured to send the rest of the detainees home.

President George Bush expressed "serious concern."[1]

Colleen Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, called the suicides, "a good PR move" -- and, "a tactic to further the jihadi cause".[7]

On June 12, 2006, in a statement that The Scotsman characterized as an attempt " pull back from the earlier comments about public relations and 'asymmetric warfare'," Cully Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said:

"I wouldn't characterise it as a good PR move. What I would say is that we are always concerned when someone takes his own life, because as Americans, we value life, even the lives of violent terrorists who are captured waging war against our country."[8]

Sean McCormack, spokesman for the United States State Department also said that "I would not say that it was a PR stunt".[9] The men were apparently unaware that one of them was due to be released. Joshua Denbeaux, a lawyer who volunteered to represent Guantanamo prisoners through the Center for Constitutional Rights, and one of the principal authors of a methodical academic analysis that examined, in detail, what the DoD said about the prisoners' identities, has said that prison authorities were withholding this information because "US officials had not decided which country he would be sent to."[9]

Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the commander of the camp's guard force, reacted to the suicides by telling his officers:[10] "The trust level is gone. They have shown time and time again that we can't trust them any farther than we can throw them. There is not a trustworthy son of a ... in the entire bunch."

Press Reaction

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that news of the deaths raised skepticism over whether the Saudi men really killed themselves.[11] The article reports Saudi speculation that the men were driven to suicide by torture.

The article names several prominent Saudis who accused the camp authorities of murdering the three men, and added:

"Some people in the conservative Islamic kingdom questioned whether Muslim men would kill themselves since suicide is a grave sin in Islam. But defense lawyers and some former detainees said many prisoners at Guantanamo are wasting away in deep despair at their long captivity."

Kateb al Shimri, a Saudi lawyer the Post-Intelligencer reports represents the Saudi prisoners, said:[11]

"The families don't believe it, and of course I don't believe it either. A crime was committed here and the U.S. authorities are responsible,"

Joshua Denbeaux said that the suicides: "...represent the Pentagon's absolute worst nightmare."[12] Denbeaux added: "...many of these prisoners have been trying to kill themselves, for months, if not years."

Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, commented: "Where we have evidence, they ought to be tried, and if convicted, they ought to be sentenced."[6] Specter added that many of the prisoners' capture was based on: "...the flimsiest sort of hearsay."

Representative Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee commented: "Bottom line: We've kept people in this prison for years and years and years without a status, without any rights, and it was the wrong way to go."[6]

Ken Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch commented: "Sadly, suicides like these are entirely predictable when people are held outside the law with no end in sight."[1]

Government counter-reaction

The Associated Press quoted the detainee's hospital's head doctor's challenge to the idea that the dead men had been driven to suicide by despair.[13][14] He asserted that the men had psychological tests administered shortly before their deaths, that confirmed that they were not depressed. The administration of psychological tests to hunger strikers was routine, and all three men were participants in the recent hunger strike.

The Doctor spoke on condition of anonymity. But he has been previously identified as Captain John Edmundson USN.[15]

According to the Associated Press the chief doctor told reporters that: "Officials have also lowered the threshold to determine when a detainee is at risk of being suicidal ... Now, any detainee thought to be a suicide risk is placed in a tear-proof anti-suicide smock _ which can't be fashioned into a makeshift noose _ for 72 hours and given a psychological exam ... There are currently about 20 detainees in green anti-suicide smocks, the doctor said."[13][14]

Admiral Harris was quoted as saying: "I think it is less about the length of their detention ... It's less about that and it's more that they continue to fight their fight, I think the vast majority of detainees are resisting us."[13][14]

Confiscating detainees legal papers

On July 9, 2006 The Jurist reported that DoD spokesmen have claimed that the dead men received assistance from others.[16][17][18] Further, the DoD claims that preparations for the hangings were written on the blank paper issued to the detainees lawyers.

The camp authorities has seized almost all the documents from almost all the detainees—a total of half a ton of papers.[16] The administration wants to suspend all lawyers visits, while a commission reviews those half-ton of papers for any further sign that any of the detainees lawyers helped plan the suicides.

Guantanamo lawyers have reported that the camp authorities are confiscating detainee's mail and legal papers.[19] The lawyers report that at least one of their clients attributes the confiscation to the premise that they might contain hints that the suicide bids were pre-planned, and possibly were encouraged by detainee's lawyers. According to Clive Stafford Smith: "They think that they are going to find letters from us suggesting suicide. It's ludicrous."

According to the San Jose Mercury:[19]

"Defense attorney Richard Wilson said in an affidavit that a military legal official told him that investigators had seized all personal papers from every detainee as part of the investigation."

Comments by released detainees who knew the dead men

Bahraini detainee Abdulla Majid Al Naimi who was released on November 8, 2005 said he knew the three dead men, and commented on their deaths on June 25, 2006. [20] Al Naimi said that Al-Utaybi and Ahmed were captured while studying in Pakistan. He said that they were interrogated for only a brief time after their arrival in Guantanamo, and their interrogators had told them they were not regarded as a threat, and that they could expect to be released.

"The interrogations dealt with them only during the first month of their detention. For more than a year before I left Guantanamo in November 2005, they were left alone. But they were still held in bad conditions in the camp by the guards,"

Al Naimi said that Al Zahrani, was only 16 when he was captured.[20] According to Al Naimi Al Zahrani should have been treated as a minor.

"He was 21 when he died, barely the legal age in most countries, and was merely 16 when he was picked up four and half years ago. His age shows that he is not even supposed to be taken to a police office; he should have been turned over to the underage [juvenile] authorities."

Death in Camp Delta

In another report led by Mark Denbeaux, an attorney for two Guantanamo detainees, Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research has issued Death in Camp Delta, which claims dramatic flaws in the government’s investigation of three simultaneous deaths of detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The June 2006 deaths raised serious questions about the security of the Camp, and this report highlights the derelictions of duty by officials of multiple defense and intelligence agencies who unnecessarily allowed three detainees to die and elected not to conduct a proper investigation into the cause of the deaths.[21] [22][23][24] The three detainees were each reported to have been found hanging in his separate cell shortly after midnight on June 10, 2006. According to the government’s own autopsies, each detainee had been hanging unobserved for a minimum of two hours. The deaths went unnoticed despite the constant supervision of five guards who were responsible for only 28 inmates in a lit cell block monitored by video cameras. According to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), each detainee should have been observed a minimum of once every 10 minutes by the guards. Despite clear violations of the SOP, no guards were ever disciplined.

Buried in the investigation are details of a camp in total disarray. According to Professor Mark Denbeaux, Director of the Center for Policy & Research [25], the investigation shows “guards not on duty, detainees hanging dead in their cells for hours and guards leaving their posts to eat the detainees’ leftover food.” During initial investigation interviews immediately following the deaths, those guards on duty were warned that they were suspected of giving false statements and were even read their Miranda rights. These guards were also ordered to not write out sworn statements, even though SOPs demanded they should.

The government’s investigation is slipshod, and its conclusion leaves the most important questions about this tragedy unanswered. Taking the military investigation’s findings as truthful and complete, in order to have committed suicide by hanging, the detainees had to:

  • Braid a noose by tearing up their sheets and/or clothing
  • Make mannequins of themselves so it would appear to the guards they were asleep in their cells
  • Hang sheets to block the view into the cells, in violation of SOPs
  • Stuff rags down their own throats
  • Tie their own feet together
  • Tie their own hands together
  • Hang the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall and/or ceiling
  • Climb up on to the sink, put the noose around their necks and release their weight, resulting in death by strangulation
  • Hang dead for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards

However, both the Pentagon and the DOJ have responded that only one detainee had a rag in his throat, that their bonds were loose and easily self-tie-able, that it was unnecessary for them to climb to the sink and that considering the seriousness of the situation the guards were expected to wait for NCIS investigators to give their statements (this is SOP when criminal actions are possible). The official response also notes that numerous guards, detainees and medical personnel saw the deceased being transferred from the cellblock to the infirmary and that the video records of the cellblock (which did not show the interiors of the cells) saw nothing amiss.[26]

Fourth Guantanamo captive dies of suicide, May 30, 2007

Abdul Rahman Ma'ath Thafir al Amri a citizen of Saudi Arabia died in the detainment camps on May 30, 2007.

The Southern Command announced on the evening of May 30, 2007 that a Saudi prisoner had died of suicide.[27][28] They announced: "The detainee was found unresponsive and not breathing in his cell by guards." The DoD did not immediately release the dead man's identity. The DoD asserted however that his remains would be treated with cultural sensitivity,

The statement closed with the following:[27][28]

"The mission of detention and interrogation at Guantanamo continues. This mission is vital to the security of our nation and our allies and is being carried out professionally and humanely by the men and women of Joint Task Force Guantanamo."

On Thursday May 31, 2007 Saudi officials announced that the dead man's name was Abdul Rahman Maadha al-Amry.[29]

The Associated Press reported, at noon May 31, 2007, that the dead man had been identified as one of the "high-value detainees", held in Camp 5.[30][31]

The Miami Herald, citing sources with inside knowledge of the case, reports that the dead man was Abdul Rahman Ma Ath Thafir Al Amri.[32] Their report identified Al Amri as one of the Guantanamo captives who was never allowed to meet with an attorney.

Other newspaper reports commented on the timing of the death, pointing out that it was almost a year after the three deaths of June 10, 2006, and that both incidents followed a new commander being assigned to JTF-GTMO, and both incidents occurred shortly before the convening of a military commission.[33][34]

Fifth captive reported dead of suicide June 1, 2009

Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi a 31 year old prisoner from Yemen died in the camps on June 1, 2009.

On June 2, 2009 the Department of Defense reported that he committed suicide[35] [36] Camp officials did not allow journalists who were at the camp for Omar Khadr's Guantanamo military commission to report news of his death until they left Guantanamo.

Reported suicide attempts

Juma Al Dossary
Mishal Awad Sayaf Alhabiri
  • Left brain-damaged, allegedly following a failed suicide attempt. He can still obey simple instructions.[38]
  • Repatriated to Saudi custody.
Sha Mohammed Alikhel
  • Sent to the punishment cells when Guantanamo was full, and all the ordinary cells were occupied.[39]
  • Reports detention in the punishment cells drove him to despair and he made four suicide attempts.
  • Released May 8, 2003.
mass suicide bid
  • Late 2003 - 23 detainees tried to hang themselves simultaneously.[15]
Isa Khan
  • Khan has been released in Pakistan. Khan reports that enduring constant surveillance, when he considers himself an innocent man, feels so intolerable that he has considered suicide.[40]
Muhammad Saad Iqbal
Seven Saudi detainees
  • Joshe Natreen, the American lawyer of seven Saudi detainees, reported that a Guantanamo official informed her that another Saudi had made a suicide attempt since June 10, 2006.[42]
  • On December 5, 2007 an unidentified captive was taken to the prison hospital, and required stitches, after he attempted to cut his throat.[43]
Allal Ab Aljallil Abd Al Rahman Abd

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Three detainees kill themselves at Guantanamo, Reuters, June 11, 2006 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Reuters060611b" defined multiple times with different content
  2. 23 Detainees Attempted Suicide in Protest at Base, Military Says, Associated Press, January 25, 2005
  3. Three Guantanamo detainees die in suicides, Reuters, June 10, 2006
  4. Triple suicide at Guantanamo camp, BBC, June 11, 2006
  5. Three die in Guantanamo suicide pact, The Times, June 11, 2006
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Suicides spur Guantanamo criticism, CNN, June 11, 2006
  7. Guantanamo suicides a 'PR move', BBC, June 11, 2006
  8. Guantanamo inmate killed himself 'unaware he was due to be freed', The Scotsman, June 13, 2006
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Guantanamo suicides 'not PR move'". BBC. 12 June 2006.
  10. Guards tighten security to prevent more deaths: Human rights groups, defense lawyers call for investigation of 3 men's suicides in military prison. Charlotte Observer, June 13, 2006
  11. 11.0 11.1 Saudis allege torture in Guantanamo deaths, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 11, 2006
  12. Three suicides reported at Guantanamo Bay, New Zealand Herald, June 11, 2006
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Official: Gitmo Prisoners Waging 'Jihad', Associated Press, June 28, 2006
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Guantanamo Bay suicide prisoners 'showed no sign of being depressed', The Independent, June 28, 2006
  15. 15.0 15.1 Kicked out of Gitmo: A Times reporter's struggle to get the truth about America's island prison just got tougher, Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2006
  16. 16.0 16.1 DOJ tells court legal notes may have aided Guantanamo suicide plot, The Jurist, July 9, 2006
  17. Guantanamo Probe Finds Evidence of Plot, Associated Press, July 9, 2006
  18. U.S. Says Inmate Legal Notes May Have Aided Suicide Plot, New York Times, July 9, 2006
  19. 19.0 19.1 Guantanamo lawyers say letters seized, San Jose Mercury, June 30, 2006
  20. 20.0 20.1 Ex-detainee disputes triple suicide report, Gulf Daily News, June 25, 2006
  21. Law School Study Finds Evidence Of Cover-Up After Three Alleged Suicides At Guantanamo In 2006 The Huffington Post September 12, 2009
  22. Gitmo Suicides: The Unanswered Questions Mother Jones (magazine) December 7, 2009
  23. A new report questions "suicides" at Guantanamo Glenn Greenwald December 7, 2009
  24. Three Corpses At Gitmo: There Is No Explanation The Atlantic December 7, 2009
  25. Center for Policy & Research Seton Hall University School of Law
  26. Scarborough, Rowan, Harper's Is Wrong on Gitmo Suicides, Human Events, January 29, 2010
  27. 27.0 27.1 Jane Sutton (May 30, 2007). "Saudi prisoner kills self at Guantanamo, U.S. says". Reuters. Retrieved 2007-05-30.[dead link]
  28. 28.0 28.1 "Detainee death at Guantanamo". Department of Defense. May 30, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
  29. Michael Melia (May 31, 2007). "Saudi Arabian Guantanamo detainee dies in apparent suicide". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  30. "U.S.: Dead Detainee Was of High Value". Central Florida News. May 31, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  31. "U.S.: Guantanamo Suicide Was "High-Value" Inmate". Stratfor. May 31, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  32. Carol Rosenberg (May 31, 2007). "Dead Gitmo captive was Saudi military veteran". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2007-05-31.[dead link]
  33. Michael Melia (May 31, 2007). "U.S.: Dead Detainee Was of High Value". Casper Star Tribune. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  34. "Saudi Arabian Guantanamo detainee dies in apparent suicide". Boston Herald. May 31, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  35. David McFadden, Danica Coto (2009-06-02). "Military: Gitmo detainee dies of apparent suicide". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2009-06-02.
  36. "Yemeni Detainee Dies In Apparent Suicide". The Washington Post. June 3, 2009. Retrieved June 27, 2009.
  37. Guantanamo Desperation Seen in Suicide Attempts: One Incident Was During Lawyer's Visit, Washington Post, October 31, 2005
  38. Guantanamo Bay documents reveal Taliban's allure, Taipei Times, March 6, 2006
  39. Inmates Released from Guantanamo Tell Tales of Despair, New York Times, June 17, 2003
  40. "Former Guantanamo Bay detainees find that life doesn't get any easier". Taipei Times. January 5, 2006. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
  41. [[[:Template:DoD detainees ARB]] Summarized transcripts (.pdf)] from Muhammad Saad Iqbal's Combatant Status Review Tribunal - page 55
  42. 3rd Saudi tries to end life at Guantanamo, United Press International, July 5, 2006
  43. "'Fingernail slash' at Guantanamo". BBC. 5 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
  44. 44.0 44.1 Ben Fox (2009-05-11). "Lawyer: Gitmo prisoner slashed wrist, hurled blood". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2009-05-11.

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