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Thursday, 6 February, 2003, 17:05 GMT
Suicide attempts in Guantanamo camp
Guantanamo Bay
None of the 600 suspects has been charged
Four detainees in the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay have attempted suicide in the past three weeks, the Pentagon has confirmed.

That prisoners are repeatedly attempting to take their own lives indicates the human cost of the indefinite legal limbo into which they have been thrown

Vienna Colucci, Amnesty International
It brings the total of serious suicide attempts in the camp, which holds more than 600 Taleban and al-Qaeda suspects captured during the war in Afghanistan, to 14 in the past year.

The most serious attempt was on 16 January, when a detainee was found hanging in his cell before a guard rescued him. He remains in a stable but serious condition.

His government was informed due to the severity of his injuries, Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Lieutenant Commander Barbara Burfeind said.

Three others who have tried to kill themselves since then have been treated successfully and returned to their cells, she added.

Trauma fears

Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are designated by the US Government as "unlawful combatants" - not prisoners of war - meaning they are not entitled to rights under the Geneva Convention.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld: Information from detainee interrogation "saving lives"
Several lawsuits aimed at having their status reclassified have been dismissed by US courts.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called on the US Government either to release the men being held or to charge them with a crime.

They say the detainees, who are largely isolated apart from two brief 15-minute exercise breaks twice a day, are at risk from psychological trauma due to uncertainty over their status.

"That prisoners are repeatedly attempting to take their own lives indicates the human cost of the indefinite legal limbo into which they have been thrown," Amnesty International's Vienna Colucci told the US Miami Herald newspaper.

Earlier in the week, the Swedish Government called on the US Government to charge or release one of its citizens, 23-year-old Mehdi-Muhammad Ghezali. The US has yet to respond.

Information gathering

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday that there was "no rush" to try those detained while information obtained from the men was "saving the lives of Americans and our friends and allies".

"These people are being treated properly and the process is going along and information is being gathered, intelligence information, and it's to the benefit of our country," he said.

Commander Burfeind said that efforts to gather intelligence were ongoing, but that several more detainees were likely to be released in the next few weeks.

The US has attempted to improve conditions for the detainees, following the appointment of new camp commander Army Major-General Geoffrey Miller in November.

Under a rewards-based system, co-operative behaviour from detainees may result in their transfer to more sociable, barracks-style compounds.


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18 Jan 03 | Americas
11 Jan 03 | Americas
11 Jan 03 | Americas
29 Oct 02 | South Asia
02 Dec 02 | Americas
24 Aug 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
08 Feb 02 | Americas
27 Feb 02 | Americas
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