Yemeni, two Saudis commit suicide at Guantanamo [Archives:2006/954/Front Page]

June 12 2006

SANA'A, June 10 ) The U.S. Defense Department (Pentagon) announced Saturday that two Saudis and a Yemeni national who were among Guantanamo Bay detainees in Cuba died Saturday morning, most probably from committing suicide.

A U.S. Army statement said guards found the three unconscious men had stopped breathing. Medical teams immediately intervened to try to save them, but in vain. The statement mentioned that a doctor announced the three detainees' deaths after all attempts to rescue their lives failed. The detention camp's administration did not disclose how the three committed suicide. The statement did not reveal the prisoners' names; however, the State Department informed the Saudi Arabian and Yemeni governments about the incident.

Although the U.S. Army announced the cause of their death as suicide, the U.S. Navy criminal investigations service initiated an investigation to determine the cause of death. These are the first deaths at the Guantanamo detention camp housing Taliban and Al-Qaeda detainees, established after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Housing 460 detainees, the detention camp has witnessed previous suicide attempts and acts of violence, with officials mentioning that 11 previous suicide attempts were conducted by 131 prisoners participating in a hunger strike.

A statement by Yemeni lawyer Khalid Al-A'nisi, Secretary-General of the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD), indicated that the group is skeptical of the truth of the U.S. story because it's known that the ideology of Islamist groups and part of Islamic ideology believe suicide contradicts such ideology.

Secondly, the statement noted that the case requires international and impartial investigation, as it's been proved that there have been criminal torture practices, crimes violating human rights and torture until death occurring in many prisons and detention camps under the U.S. Administration.

The statement's third issue was that the detainees have been imprisoned for several years while there is nothing against them and they are considered the responsibility of the United States and the U.S. Administration; thus, the U.S. will not be impartial.

Al-A'nisi said the incident calls for more pressure efforts by human rights organizations and human rights activists against violations committed by the U.S. Administration in prisons like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and secret prisons in various areas worldwide.

He asserted that the Yemeni citizen's funeral must become a demonstration attended by human rights activists from various parts of the world and be a message about the U.S. Administration's human rights violations at Guantanamo and other prisons. “Yemen's government must demand an international investigation into the incident of the death of one of its citizens at Guantanamo prison,” he added.

According to Al-A'nisi, as is its habit, the Yemeni government is remaining silent about the case and it at least should have complained to the United Nations, since Yemen is the Arab nation with the second largest number of citizens detained at Guantanamo. He demanded Yemen's government not play a role in hiding the crime by hastily burying the corpse without conducting a transparent and neutral investigation. “The strange thing is that the name of the dead Yemeni hasn't been revealed even up until now and that increases the anxiety of the Yemeni families,” Al-A'nisi added.

Amnesty International Statement

Amnesty International issued a June 5 statement demanding urgent action regarding the United States' ill treatment of Guantanamo hunger strikers. It said the number of Guantanamo detainees on hunger strike had risen to 75 as of May 29, according to a U.S. military spokesperson. Before that, the number had fallen to as little as three. Camp authorities allegedly have been mistreating striking detainees to pressure them into giving up.

Three detainees are believed to have been on hunger strike continuously since it began August 8, 2005 and kept alive only by force-feeding through a tube inserted into the stomach via the nose. One of a new group of hunger strikers also is being force-fed this way, according to a Navy spokesperson.

The force-feeding method used at Guantanamo may amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Detainees reportedly have been strapped into restraint chairs and force-fed with a thick plastic tube with a metal edge and deliberately fed too much in order to cause pain. According to their lawyers, they were isolated in cold rooms and some were beaten to punish them for joining the strike.

U.S. authorities previously downplayed the number of detainees involved in the hunger strike to avoid international criticism. They don't consider a detainee to be on hunger strike until he's refused all food for at least three days in succession. Lawyers say some hunger striking detainees have been accepting meals, but then throwing the food away to avoid being force-fed.

The spokesperson claimed that the increased number of hunger strikers is an “attention-getting” tactic and “consistent with Al-Qaeda practice.” However, Amnesty International has received consistent reports that the strikers' aim is to protest against their continued indefinite detention without charge or trial, camp conditions and mistreatment by camp guards.

The most recent communication from a hunger striker was a note passed to his lawyer in March by Ahmed Errachidi, a Moroccan national and long-term UK resident. Indicating that he joined the strike out of desperation regarding his continued detention, he wrote, “Enough is enough. I have the right to protest peacefully. I'm not harming them [the U.S.]. I must be allowed to demonstrate peacefully. I don't want to die; I want to live, but I'm not living here. My struggle is not to die, but it's a struggle for the Truth.”