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Monday, June 19, 2006

The Observer | World | How US hid the suicide secrets of Guantanamo

In Guantanamo Bay's Alpha Block, the night was like any other: sweltering and seemingly endless. Although the temperature was down to the high 70s outside, the block's steel roof and walls were radiating heat, and in the two facing rows of 24 cells it felt little cooler than it had at midday. 'The nights are worse than the days,' the British former prisoner Shafiq Rasul recalled yesterday. 'You hear the rats running and scratching. The bugs go mad and there's no air. Especially where that block is: there's no breeze whatsoever.'

According to Guantanamo's rules, a six-person team of military police should have been patrolling constantly, and as usual the bright neon lights stayed on. A guard should have passed each detainee's cell every 30 seconds. 'From the landing, you can see right into every cell,' said Rasul. 'They don't have doors, just gates made from wide-spaced mesh. There's no privacy. If you hang up a towel because you want to go to the toilet, they make you take it down.'

The high degree of surveillance has foiled dozens of previous attempts by prisoners to take their own lives. 'It happened in front of me several times. The soldiers would see what was happening and they were in the cell in seconds,' Rasul said. But somehow, in circumstances that the Pentagon has succeeded in keeping totally obscure, late on Friday, 9 June, three detainees, all weak and emaciated after months on hunger strike and being force-fed, managed to tease bedsheets through their cells' mesh walls, tie them into nooses and hang themselves. With the cells little taller than the height of a man, they stood no chance of breaking their necks: the only way they could die was slowly, by hypoxia.

'That would take at least four or five minutes, probably longer,' said Dr David Nicholl, consultant neurologist at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, who has been co-ordinating international opposition to Guantanamo by physicians. 'It's very difficult to see how, if the landing was being properly patrolled, they could have managed to accomplish it.'
read the rest here...

The Observer | World | How US hid the suicide secrets of Guantanamo


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