ACLU calls for suicide investigation

June 1, 2007 at 3:13 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 1 (UPI) -- The death of a detainee at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay highlights concerns of groups calling for its closure.

U.S. authorities discovered on Wednesday the body of a detainee from Saudi Arabia who apparently committed suicide -- the fourth by a suspected terrorist/enemy combatant detainee in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay in the past year.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents a number of people held at Guantanamo, said that news of detainees committing suicide was no surprise.

"Further deaths at Guantanamo should not surprise us when prisoners are afforded a second class system of justice, are held indefinitely without charge, and are given only limited access to their lawyers," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU.

The ACLU called for an independent investigation into the death, saying that the United States has typically downplayed the significance of attempted and successful suicides at Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. officials were criticized last year when they called the three suicides committed by detainees "an act of asymmetric warfare."

Many of the approximately 380 suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay have been in U.S. detention for four or five years without being formally charged with crimes.

"Guantanamo Bay has operated for far too long under a shroud of secrecy. The global community and the American public have rightfully lost their trust in the U.S. government after countless reports of abuses and injustices at Guantanamo," Romero said.

The ACLU recently endorsed legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, that calls for detainees to be transferred to the maximum security prison at Fort Leavenworth. By law, the United States would then have to formally charge the detainees to keep them in U.S. custody.

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