June 14, 2006 – While some Bush administration officials have described the apparent suicides of three GuantÃ¡namo detainees as a "PR move" or an act of "asymmetric warfare," civil rights lawyers are highlighting the militaryâ€™s refusal to provide its captives with psychological help.
"This government has consistently fought to keep these men from lawyers, doctors and others who were willing to help them," said Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), in a press statement. "Now, in attempting to deny the truth, this administration will not only cause more pain and misery amongst the detainees at GuantÃ¡namo, it will ultimately undermine fundamental democratic institutions of the United States."
The dead detainees were reported to be Yassar Talal Al Zahrani, Mana Shaman Allabardi Al Otaibi, and Ahmed Abdullah. Al Zahrani, according to Amnesty International, was 17 when at the time of his capture.
CRR, which is overseeing hundreds of pro-bono attorneys representing GuantÃ¡namo detainees, released a document counting the hundreds of previous suicide attempts, the US militaryâ€™s policy of hiding such attempts from the public, and numerous efforts by lawyers to gain access to physical and psychological care for the detainees. The document also points out that since 2002, the militaryâ€™s policy has been that medical information gathered by healthcare providers at the camp was made available to government agents to be used in crafting interrogations.
"In this fashion, caregivers became part of GuantÃ¡namoâ€™s surveillance and interrogation network, dissolving any purported separation between intelligence gathering and patient care," wrote CCR.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union called for independent monitoring of the conditions at GuantÃ¡namo, including the "medical treatment of detainees, especially those who have chosen to engage in hunger striking as a way to draw attention to their conditions of confinement."
In related news, the federal government announced it would indefinitely suspend controversial military tribunals designed to try a handful of detainees for alleged war crimes. The tribunals had been set to start up again this week.