Guantanamo detainees attempt suicide
By Iván Román
Orlando Sentinel, San Juan Bureau
October 3, 2002
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- The number of detainees scooped up in the war on terror who have tried to
commit suicide in their wire-mesh cells is increasing, military officials said Wednesday. But they declined to say at what pace.
Officials had previously said four of the 598 men in the growing detention camp tried to kill themselves in the past few months.
The men are suspected of belonging to the al-Qaeda terrorist network or to Afghanistan's fallen Taliban regime. Methods
included trying to hang themselves with towels and slitting their wrists with plastic forks.
Wednesday, officials said more prisoners have tried suicide, but they won't say how many or what methods they used.
"Indeed, there have been more attempts. But in terms of numbers, our policy is not to discuss that," said Sgt. Ray Sarracino, a
Southern Command spokesman in Miami. "The attempts were thwarted very quickly by those guarding the detainees, and they
The detainees -- held in 8-by-7-foot wire-mesh cells surrounded by razor wire and patrolled by armed guards -- began to
arrive at the century-old naval base, blindfolded and shackled, on Jan. 11. From the temporary cells many described as cages,
they were moved to Camp Delta.
There, they are still locked in wire-mesh cells, but they have toilets and wash basins.
The U.S. government has declared the prisoners "unlawful combatants," which means they do not qualify for prisoner-of-war
status under the articles of the Geneva Convention, even though officials say their treatment meets conditions of the international
treaty. Human-rights advocates and lawyers representing some detainees and their families say the "legal status limbo"
contributes to stress and depression that could lead to suicide attempts. Military health officials said about 30 detainees are
Capt. Albert J. Shimkus Jr. said most mental-health problems that have surfaced can be attributed to post-traumatic stress
relating to experiences on the battlefield. However, he said he didn't know whether stress from the detention has become a
Iván Román can be reached at iromanorlandosentinel.com