A prisoner has died in an apparent suicide at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the US military announced May 30. A statement by the US Southern Command said the inmate, a Saudi Arabian national, was found unresponsive and not breathing by guards, and attempts to revive him failed. Two Saudis and a Yemeni prisoner were found hanged in an apparent suicide at the camp in June last year. There were no details as to how the prisoner died. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has opened an inquiry into the incident. There are about 380 prisoners at the camp, some held for five years.
Michael Ratner of the US Center for Constitutional Rights told the AP the death was likely an act of desperation. “You have five-and-a-half years of desperation there with no legal way out,” Ratner said.
The death came just days before two detainees—Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni, and Omar Khadr, a Canadian—were due to face trial before a US military tribunal. Khadr had fired his American lawyers, leaving him without representation for the hearing. Khadr’s former lawyer, Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, said his former client was being held under a process that was “patently unfair.” Said Vokey: “He doesn’t trust American lawyers, and I don’t particularly blame him.”
Hamdan won a landmark case last year when the US Supreme Court ruled the military tribunal system illegal, forcin President George Bush to return to Congress to authorize the tribunals. (BBC, May 31)
See our last posts on the torture and detainment controvers.