Guantanamo Detainee Deaths: Suicides or Homicides?

Via the Associated Press, a new article by Scott Horton in Harper's Magazine reports new, and if true, explosive findings on the deaths of the three Guantanamo detainees who allegedly committed suicide in their cells in 2006. Horton alleges the deaths may have been homicides.

Three Guantanamo Bay detainees whose deaths were ruled a suicide in 2006 apparently had been transported from their cells hours before their deaths to a secret site on the island, an article in Harper's magazine asserts.

...Harper's reported that the deaths of the three detainees, or the events that led directly to their deaths, most likely occurred at a previously undisclosed facility a mile or so from the main Guantanamo Bay prison complex.


The three detainees are Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, 37, of Yemen; Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, 30, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, 22, both of Saudi Arabia.

The article says that at a 7 a.m. meeting on June 10, 2006 with 50 or so soldiers and sailors, Army Col. Michael Bumgarner said that the three men had died by swallowing rags, causing them to choke to death. Bumgarner was a commander at Guantanamo Bay.

According to the magazine, Bumgarner went on to say that the news media would be guided to report something different — that the three prisoners had committed suicide by hanging themselves in their cells.

Bumgarner, in an e-mail to the AP, denies the allegations in Harper's.

In December, Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research released a new report on the Guantanamo suicides. You can read the full report, Death in Camp Delta, here (pdf). My summary is here. The report noted the inadequacies of the investigation of the deaths and said:

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

The report concluded:

“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.”

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    Any alleged suicide... (5.00 / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 12:56:55 PM EST
    that occurs within a few square miles of a CIA agent is suspect in my book...I mean part of the job description of a CIA agent is making murders look like suicides.

    And one would think the security is so tight in Guantanamo that suicide would be next to impossible...its hard enough to off yourself in the county jail absent serious negligence on the part of the staff, nevermind a prison as tight as Guantanamo.

    They died (none / 0) (#6)
    by MKS on Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 05:16:35 PM EST
    from swallowing rags??

    I wonder how many will care about this...


    I remember reading something (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Anne on Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 01:33:10 PM EST
    about this - I think Glenn wrote about it not too long ago - but the detail Horton provides makes it even more disturbing - on so many levels.

    Makes me very concerned about the Obama administration's apparent willingness to cover up matters that were and are deserving of an open and thorough and public investigation.

    How do we even have a shred of credibility when speaking of human rights abuses around the world?

    Presumption of guilt re CIA? (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 01:03:40 PM EST

    Yes (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Andreas on Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 01:39:52 PM EST
    There is every reason to assume that the three people were murdered. That is why a real investigation is needed.

    The CIA has a long history of such criminal acts and is essentially a terrorist organisation. Considering that the government was lead by criminals there is even more reason to investigate what happened there.


    hardly, read the reports (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 01:13:17 PM EST
    and don't be snarky on serious topics. Your attempt at drive-by humor/sarcasm is not appreciated.

    From the outside in (none / 0) (#7)
    by mcl on Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 02:18:56 PM EST
    Anyone with a knowledge of history recognizes that whenever some new absridgement of basic civil rights gets tried by the government, it is usually tried out first against prisoners and schoolkids and members of the military.

    This represents the canary in the coal mine of the American justice system. Failure to address these atrocities will lead the widespread "suicide" of people detained in police custody at the federal state and local level. Once it gets demonstrated that prisoners can be suicided without accountability, the practice will spread like wildfire...