UK-based human rights group Reprieve issued a statement Jan. 19 suggesting that the Obama administration has suppressed information relating to the investigation of three 2006 Guantánamo Bay suicides and urging further inquiries. The statement comes in response to an article for the upcoming issue of Harper’s Magazine, in which former guards at the prison indicate that the three prisoners experienced intense interrogations in a remote area of the base just hours before the deaths. According to the article, military personnel were instructed by a commanding officer that the media would be told that the deaths were suicides.
The Obama administration issued a statement indicating that it took the matter seriously and found no evidence of wrongdoing during its investigation. A 2008 investigation conducted by the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) concluded that the cause of death was suicide.
In June, another Yemeni Guantánamo detainee was pronounced dead after apparently committing suicide. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called for a “full and transparent investigation” into the death. Military officials said that the three 2006 detainees, who hanged themselves using nooses made from sheets and clothes, had participated in hunger strikes and were among those who had been force-fed. Amnesty International said the deaths “are the tragic results of years of arbitrary and indefinite detention” and should serve as “an indictment on [Guantanamo’s] deteriorating human rights record.” In 2006, the US Department of Defense (DOD) rejected a demand by Amnesty International for an independent investigation into the suicides. (Jurist, Jan. 20)
Yemeni officials have also demanded a new investigation of the supposed suicides. Rights groups assailed the force-feeding of detainees to break the hunger strike as a violation of medical ethics. But the practice was approved by a Pentagon report last year.