Dozens of suicide tries at Guantanamo

The three prisoners found dead at the Guantanamo prison camp 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 US naval base in southeast Cuba.

    Prisoners at the US naval base also have staged hunger strikes

    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 death.

    Foreign governments, including US allies, and human rights groups have criticised the indefinite detentions and the prisoners' lack of legal rights at Guantanamo.

    The Pentagon insists the detainees are treated humanely.

    Mass attempts

    On May 18, two prisoners overdosed on prescription drugs they had hoarded, in what camp officials called a co-ordinated attempt at martyrdom.

    The treatment of prisoners at the
    camp has been criticised

    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's dozen attempts

    Bahraini captive Jumah Dossari has tried to kill himself a dozen times.

    In October, he handed his visiting lawyer a note to examine later.

    "There was no other alternative to make our voice heard by the world"

    Jumah Dossari
    Bahraini captive

    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.

    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 centres except this way in order for the world to re-examine 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.

    Hunger strikes

    Prisoners have staged hunger strikes since shortly after the first detainees arrived in January 2002.

    The largest began in August 2005 and peaked on September 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 Admiral 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 criticised," Harris said.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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