New Report on Guantanamo Suicides Faults Military Investigation

Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research has released a new report on the Guantanamo suicides. You can read the full report, Death in Camp Delta, here (pdf). From the press release:

[T]his report highlights the derelictions of duty by officials of multiple defense and intelligence agencies who allowed three detainees to die and elected not to conduct a proper investigation into the cause of the deaths.


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.

The report analyzes the Government's report on the suicides. The Government attributed the suicides to "asymmetrical warfare." As today's report notes:

Both the time and exact manner of the deaths remain uncertain, and the presence of rags stuffed in the detainees‘ throats is unexplained.

A little background from the executive summary:

On the night of June 9, 2006, three detainees died in a maximum security section of the Guantánamo Bay Detention facility. The military‘s initial press releases reported not only that the detainees were found hanging in their cells but also that their actions were a conspiracy as part of ―asymmetrical warfare" against the United States. At the same time, the military ordered all media off the island and prevented all lawyers from visiting their clients.

Questions immediately arose about how three detainees, under constant supervision, were able to conspire effectively to commit coordinated suicides. The military soon announced that it was conducting an investigation, but the results were not published until more than two years ater. In August 2008 a heavily redacted report of the investigation concluded that the detainees had hanged themselves in their cells and that one detainee, while walking the corridors that night, had announced, "tonight‘s the night."

The investigation, however, leaves many unanswered questions. Three years later it is still unclear how such coordinated conduct could have occurred, much less how heavily supervised detainees could have been dead for more than two hours before they were discovered. Both the time and exact manner of the deaths remain uncertain...

Among the things that don't add up, according to the report:

Accepting the military investigation findings as true and complete, in order to commit suicide by hanging, the detainees must have:

  • Braided a noose by tearing up their sheets and/or clothing
  • Made mannequins of themselves so it would appear to the guards that they were
    asleep in their cells
  • Hung sheets to block the view into the cells, a violation of SOPs
  • Tied their feet together
  • Tied their hands together
  • Shoved rags in their mouths and down their throats
  • Hung the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall and/or ceiling
  • Climbed up on to the sink, put the noose around their necks and released their weight,
    resulting in death by strangulation
  • Hung dead for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards

SOPs required guards to note movement or to see the detainee‘s skin while walking the block. This raises many questions as to how three detainees on the same cell block, on the same side of the block, were able to complete the aforementioned acts without any Alpha guards noticing.

According to the Director of the Seton Hall project, Law Professor Mark Denbeaux:

“An investigation was promised. The promised investigation was a cover up. Worse still, given the gross inadequacy of the investigation the more compelling questions are: Who knew of the cover up? Who approved of the cover up, and why? The government’s investigation is slipshod, and its conclusion leaves the most important questions about this tragedy unanswered.”

All of Seton Hall's Guantanamo reports are available here.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Sounds more like... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by desertswine on Mon Dec 07, 2009 at 12:29:13 PM EST
    three possible murders.

    The very least I expected from the new (4.00 / 1) (#1)
    by ruffian on Mon Dec 07, 2009 at 11:32:32 AM EST
    administration was a strong reaction to these abuses. This makes me truly ashamed of my country. Unfortunately, h/t Greenwald, the Obama DOJ is acting like the Bush DOJ in blocking the lawsuits that are the best recourse for exposure of these horrible crimes.

    Perhaps this new report will prompt a stronger reaction from the Obama Administration.

    No hope for "a stronger reaction" (none / 0) (#2)
    by Andreas on Mon Dec 07, 2009 at 12:27:42 PM EST
    There is no basis for any hope for "a stronger reaction from the Obama Administration".

    Indeed. Obama Made That (none / 0) (#4)
    by The Maven on Mon Dec 07, 2009 at 01:17:26 PM EST
    perfectly clear throughout his campaign (though many chose to ignore it in the belief that he was an 11-dimensional chess grandmaster) by stating that he was all about looking forward and not dwelling in recriminations over past events.

    That was bad enough in and of itself, but the degree to which Obama's administration has co-opted and even expanded upon some of the worst examples of Bush-era Constitution-twisting has surprised even someone as cynical as me.  I knew he had no stomach for strong investigations, but instead he has become complicit in the coverups, bringing further shame upon our nation.