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Still Plenty of Questions on Guantanamo Deaths

In Crime, Politics, World on December 24, 2009 at 7:56 am

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that plans to close the prison by Guantanamo Bay are being hampered by “skeptical lawmakers” who are — let’s be charitable here — less than eager to provide funds  to buy the Illinois prison where the Obama Administration would like to move the prisoners.

As a result, according to the paper, “officials now believe that they are unlikely to close the prison” until 2011 at the earliest.

And while the Administration continues to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo — as demonstrated by last week’s sending of 12 people to Afghanistan, Yemen and the Somaliland region — and there continues to be much blustering about whether the prisoners should be moved to Illinois at all, there’s still a couple of issues that need to be dealt with.

Most notably, did three prisoners at Guantanamo — one Yemeni and two Saudis — really kill themselves the morning of June 10, 2006, as the Pentagon said.

A new report by Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research alleged “dramatic flaws in the government’s investigation” of the deaths.

The report points out that, if the government’s probe is to be taken at face value, in order for three — in separate cells — to have committed suicide, they would have had to:

“braid a noose by tearing up their sheets and/or clothing;

“make mannequins of themselves so it would appear to the guards they were asleep in their cells;

“hang sheets to block the view into the cells, in violation of standard operating procedures;

“stuff rags down their own throats;

“tie their own feet together;

“tie their own hands together;

“hang the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall and/or ceiling;

“climb up on the sink, put the noose around their necks and release their weight, resulting in death by strangulation;

“hang dead for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards.”

“An investigation was promised,” said Professor Mark Denbeaux, the director of the Center for Policy & Research. “The promised investigation was a cover up. Worse still, given the gross inadequacy of the investigation the more compelling questions are: who knew of the cover up? Who approved the cover up, any why? The government’s investigation is slipshod, and its conclusion leaves the most important questions about this tragedy unanswered.”

The Seton Hall report said the government’s report — a heavily redacted version of which was released in August 2008 — also questions how the three — who had been on the same cell block for less than 72 hours — were able to coordinate what the government called an act of “asymmetrical warfare.”

While it’s important to figure out what next for the Guantanamo detainees, it’s also important to figure out what happened to those who never left the island alive.

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