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Prisoner Suicide Attempts in Cuba Dismay the Pentagon

May 29, 2003|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Wednesday reported two new suicide attempts by prisoners held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, expressing renewed concern as the total number of suicide tries reached 27.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Burfeind, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in the last 10 days, one detainee attempted to kill himself for the first time, while another made a repeat attempt. She said neither man was injured and both received medical and mental evaluations.

Burfeind said 18 detainees have tried to kill themselves -- most by hanging -- and that there were 27 attempts by these detainees since the facility opened in January 2002. She said there were numerous repeat suicide attempts, and some may have tried more than twice.

Roughly 680 prisoners are being held at Guantanamo.

"There's definitely concern in terms of reducing the number of attempts," Burfeind said. "It's not an easy situation."

No one has died, although one detainee who attempted suicide has been hospitalized for months.

Human rights groups have criticized the United States for the conditions under which the prisoners are held, saying that interrogation techniques used there might include torture.

The United States has used the Guantanamo base to hold non-U.S. citizens, including suspected members of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, caught in what President Bush calls the U.S. war against terrorism.

The Pentagon has refused to identify the prisoners, has not brought charges against any, and has barred them from contacting lawyers. The Pentagon is finalizing plans for military trials for some of the prisoners.

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