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Act now: Guantanamo “suicides”

The National Guantanamo Coalition

Write to your MP and ask the Government to take action to close down Guantanamo and ask for an independent investigation into the deaths of these men.


On Friday night, 9 June 2006, it was reported by the US military that three men, two Saudi nationals and a Yemeni, committed “suicide” at Camp 1 in Guantanamo Bay. Detainees in Camp 1 are held in cages with very thin wire mesh. The men died by strangulation with their bed-sheets – a lawyer who has seen these conditions said that the mesh is far too thin to fit a sheet through. The only way they could have strangulated themselves is to have tied the sheets to their toilets and literally pulled until they strangled themselves. This raises the question of how they died. These men were also held without access to the outside world – they had little, if any, communication with their families through censored letters and did not have access to legal representation, hence little is known about their cases. It is not known if they were taking part in the hunger strike and if this could have contributed to their deaths.

On Sunday, a US Interior Ministry statement identified the two Saudis as 30 year old Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi and 21 year old Yassar Talal al-Zahrani, but gave no further details about them. The Yemeni citizen was identified as 28 year old Ali Abdullah Ahmed. The US army described this act of desperation as “an act of asymmetrical warfare” and a “PR stunt” by Al-Qaeda operatives being held at Guantanamo. After four years of torture and abuse, no evidence has been presented to substantiate that any of the detainees were with Al-Qaeda and less than 10 of the over 450 men held there have been charged and none have been put on trial.

Eight detainees held at Guantanamo are British residents, many with strong ties to the UK and have British families. The news of these deaths was clearly disturbing for relatives of all the detainees and did nothing to assuage fears about their mental and physical health in Guantanamo. Abu Bakr Deghayes, brother of Brighton resident Omar Deghayes, said, “We are very worried about Omar. In the four years he has been held in Guantanamo we have had so little news from him. We know he was desperate enough to join the hunger strike last year. There should be access for families to see detainees, especially after such a terrible incident. We ask for an independent investigation into the sad deaths of these three men.”

In recent months, there have been many calls at all levels for the closure of Guantanamo, from national governments, human rights NGOs, the European Union and the United Nations. These calls need to be translated into concrete action on the part of all world government to close the camp and have all the detainees currently held there returned to countries where they will not face further torture and abuse. This action needs to be taken urgently to avoid any further fatalities.

Take action!

Please write to your MP and ask the British government to take action to close down Guantanamo and ask for an independent investigation into the deaths of these men. Please also send a copy of the letter (a draft is provided below) to the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary.

Draft Letter
Dear M(r)(s),

I am writing to you concerning the alarming news of the suicide of three men detained at Guantanamo Bay on Friday 9 June 2006.

It was reported on Saturday that three men, two Saudi nationals and a Yemeni, being held at Camp 1 committed suicide by tying bed sheets together and then hanging themselves. The US military, which was tardy in releasing information about the identity of the three men, was quick to refer to this act of desperation as an “act of warfare”.

Such comments reveal the brutality of the US military and do nothing to hide the fact that these men were detained in inhumane conditions without recourse to due process, access to their families or lawyers for more than four years.

I call on the British government to urge the US government and military to launch an independent inquiry into the cause of the deaths of these men and have it verified by an accredited and independent third party and for the results of that inquiry to be made public. This inquiry must include the full disclosure of medical and psychological reports held by the US military about these men from the date of their seizure to the date of their demise.

I urge the British government to urgently demand that the US military releases the bodies of these men to their families in Saudi Arabia and Yemen as soon as is possible and that they are buried in accordance with the requirements of the Islamic faith so that their basic human rights may be honoured in death even though they were not during their lifetimes.

I also urge the British government to call for the immediate closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and for all the men held there, without trial or charge, to be immediately sent to countries where they will not face further abuses of their basic human rights and before further tragedy strikes.

You are probably aware that eight British residents are among the 450+ men currently being held there; this news has done nothing to assuage their fears for their loved ones. They too have had no direct access to their family members for over four years and two of the residents have never seen their youngest children. I also call on you to demand that the families of the detainees, the majority of whom have been held without charge for the last four years, are granted access to their families, through the exchange of frequent phone calls, letters and photographs, until such time as they are released and Guantanamo Bay is shut down altogether.

Yours sincerely,

Address your letter to:

Your MP: (if you don’t know who your MP is, try )
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Home Secretary:
John Reid
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Foreign Secretary
Margaret Beckett
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

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