- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The three prisoners found dead at the Guantanamo
prison camp on Saturday were the first to succeed in committing suicide,
but nearly two dozen others have tried to kill themselves behind the razor-wire
fences at the remote U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba.
- Before Saturday, 23 prisoners had tried
to kill themselves 41 times at the camp, which holds about 460 foreign
terrorism suspects, military officials said.
- That number did not include hundreds
of what military officials called "self-harm incidents" and "hanging
gestures," where detainees cut themselves deliberately or wrapped
bedding around their necks in what Guantanamo officials said were attempts
to gain attention or express frustration without actually trying to cause
- Foreign governments, including U.S. allies,
and human rights groups have criticized the indefinite detentions and the
prisoners' lack of legal rights at Guantanamo. The Pentagon insists the
detainees are treated humanely.
- On May 18, two prisoners overdosed on
prescription drugs they had hoarded, in what camp officials called a coordinated
attempt at martyrdom.
- In January 2003, a Saudi prisoner tried
to hang himself in his cell and suffered brain damage that left him in
a coma for more than three months.
- In August 2003, 23 prisoners tried to
hang or strangle themselves -- 10 on the same day -- in a mass protest.
Two were treated at a hospital for minor injuries and Guantanamo officials
said at the time that most were not genuine suicide attempts, but were
part of a coordinated effort to disrupt camp operations.
- Bahraini captive Jumah Dossari has tried
to kill himself a dozen times. In October 2005, he handed his visiting
lawyer a note to examine later. When the lawyer stepped out, Dossari hanged
himself in his cell and cut a gash in his arm.
- A guard cut him down and medical personnel
sutured his arm. He later tried to rip out the stitches, in what the military
described then as his ninth confirmed suicide attempt.
- 'NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE'
- The note he had handed his lawyer described
feelings of desperation, humiliation and abandonment, according to a translation
obtained by The Washington Post.
- "There was no other alternative
to make our voice heard by the world from the depths of the detention centers
except this way in order for the world to reexamine its standing and for
the fair people of America to look again at the situation and try to have
a moment of truth with themselves," Dossari wrote.
- Prisoners have staged numerous hunger
strikes since shortly after the first detainees arrived in January 2002.
The largest began in August 2005 and peaked on Sept. 11 of that year, when
131 prisoners were refusing to eat -- they are counted as hunger strikers
when they miss nine consecutive meals.
- When doctors determine they are so undernourished
that their health is in danger, camp officials force-feed them through
tubes inserted into the nostrils and down into the stomach, strapping them
into restraint chairs to keep them from vomiting up the liquid.
- Three have been fed that way for nearly
10 consecutive months. Pentagon officials last week affirmed force-feeding
hunger strikers as part of a long-standing policy "to preserve the
life of detainees by all appropriate clinical means."
- In a May 18 interview with Reuters and
other journalists visiting Guantanamo, Rear Adm. Harry Harris, the commander
of the detention operation, acknowledged the eventual death of a prisoner
was inevitable, and that even a death from natural causes would put Guantanamo
under a spotlight.
- "We're going to be subjected to
a lot of questions, and rightfully so. Legitimate questions. Why did this
person die? Did you have something to do with it? Was it of natural causes?
And I believe, if it is of natural causes, we're still going to be criticized,"