Reuters & Human Rights First – 2006-06-11 23:51:13
Saudi Lawyer Blames US for Guantanamo Suicides
Souhail Karam / Reuters
RIYADH (June 11, 2006) — A lawyer for Saudi nationals imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay said on Sunday he held US authorities responsible for the deaths of two Saudi prisoners who hanged themselves at the US naval base.
Saudi Arabia, a staunch US ally, said it was stepping up efforts to repatriate all nationals held at the base in Cuba.
An Interior Ministry statement identified the two Saudis as Manei al-Otaibi and Yasser al-Zahrani but gave no further details about them. A Yemeni man also committed suicide.
“We are doing all we can to bring the bodies of the two victims home,” a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman told Reuters, but declined to say if Riyadh would ask for an investigation into the deaths.
The three men, who hanged themselves with clothes and bedsheets, were the first prisoners to die at the base in Cuba since the United States began holding “terrorism” suspects there in 2002.
“Our priority now is to repatriate the bodies of the victims and to step up our efforts to bring back all Saudis detained there,” the Interior Ministry spokesman said.
“Each Saudi has to be brought home where he can face up to charges he is accused of based on our laws and regulations.”
He said there were up to 103 Saudis detained at the naval base, which holds about 460 foreigners captured mainly in Afghanistan where the United States has fought the Taliban and al Qaeda.
The detainees’ deaths renewed criticism of the base, which many human rights groups say should be closed. Nearly all the prisoners at Guantanamo, in Cuba, are being held without charge and some have been held for more than three years.
“The detainees’ death reveals the mistreatment at Guantanamo and the extent human rights are breached,” said Katib al-Shimary, lawyer for Saudi detainees at Guantanamo. “Their suicide, that is if they did commit suicide, is a response to the oppression and injustice they lived in.”
“I hold the US authorities responsible for their deaths,” Shimary told Saudi-owned satellite television Al Arabiya.
The lawyer said US authorities did not allow him or any other foreign lawyers to meet detainees, adding that he had not been informed of the death of the two Saudis.
The US military said guards at the camp found the three Arab men not breathing in their cells shortly after midnight and attempts to resuscitate them failed.
The three detainees had taken part previously in extended hunger strikes and been force-fed. They all left suicide notes but no details were made public.
Saudi Arabia has freed at least eight detainees handed over to it from Guantanamo, saying they had completed their jail sentences. In May, the kingdom said it had received 15 Saudi detainees and that they would be put on trial in the kingdom if a review of their cases shows a trial was justified.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. cities were from Saudi Arabia, as is al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
© Reuters 2006.
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US Holding Prisoners in More than Two Dozen Secret Detention Facilities Worldwide
Human Rights First
WASHINGTON, DC (June 17, 2004 ) — A new report from Human Rights First (the new name of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) outlines the scope of the global network of US detention facilities holding suspects in the “war on terror.”
The report lists more than two dozen facilities that have been reported by Human Rights First sources and the media; at least half of these operate in total secrecy.
In addition to listing known detention facilities — including prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air Force Base, and Abu Ghraib — the report, “Ending Secret Detentions” provides an accounting of US military detention facilities reported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, and aboard US ships at sea (see attached list).
“The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cannot be addressed in isolation,” said Deborah Pearlstein, the Director of Human Rights First’s US Law and Security Program. “The United States government is holding prisoners in a secret system of off-shore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability, or law.”
Human Rights First is calling for a comprehensive global response by US authorities to end secret detentions, to investigate abuses, and to put necessary corrective measures in place.
The report, called “Ending Secret Detention,” concludes that the secrecy surrounding this network of detention facilities, as it has been constructed and operated by the United States, makes “inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely, but inevitable.”
Human Rights First calls on the Administration to give the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) immediate access to all those it is holding in custody in the “war on terror.”
The report outlines what is known about this global detention system and finds that it is, to varying degrees in different locations, failing to meet existing obligations under US and international law.
These obligations include:
• Affording the ICRC unfettered access to all detainees held in the course of armed conflict
• Providing every individual in custody some recognized legal status
• Disclosing the names of all individuals detained to their families and friends
In a chapter called “The Purpose Behind the Law,” the report argues that the United States’ illegal treatment of detainees puts US forces abroad at greater risk of the same kinds of torture and ill treatment.
It also describes how these illegal practices seriously undermine the United States’ ability to forge alliances throughout the international community — a goal essential to defeating terrorism over the long term. “The United States’ practices in its global network of detention facilities also has a deeply negative effect on the US ability to combat the threat of terrorism,” the report finds, “which depends critically on a visible demonstration that US deeds match its words in supporting democracy and human rights.”
To come into compliance with the law and to prevent future abuse, Human Rights First calls on the Administration to take a series of steps, including:
(1) Granting the ICRC unrestricted access to all US-controlled detention facilities around the world.
(2) Disclosing to Congress and the ICRC the location of all US-controlled detention facilities worldwide, and providing a regular accounting of the number and nationality of all held.
(3) Ordering a thorough, comprehensive, and independent investigation of all US-controlled detention facilities, and submitting the findings of the investigation to Congress.
(4) Taking all necessary steps to inform the immediate families of those detained of their relatives? capture, location, legal status, and condition of health.
“Ending Secret Detentions” is part of Human Rights First?s “End Abuse” campaign. Information about the “End Abuse” Campaign can be found at www.humanrightsfirst.org. Human Rights First (the new name of Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) works in the United States and abroad to create a secure and humane world by advancing justice, human dignity and respect for the rule of law.
In 2003, we published two in-depth and well-received reports on the erosion of civil liberties and human rights in the US since September 11. Imbalance of Powers and Assessing the New Normal are widely cited, and relied on by journalists, policy-makers and advocates.
The reports have shaped the public debate and agenda on how to enhance security and protect rights post 9/11. Last year, our legal representation program won 103 asylum cases for men and women fleeing rape, torture and political and religious persecution in their home countries.
US Operated Detention Facilities
In the “War On Terror”
From “Ending Secret Detention” by Human Rights First – Full Report (PDF – 400KB)
• Collection Center at the US Air Force Base in Bagram.
• Detention facility in Kandahar (an “intermediate” site, where detainees await transport to Bagram).
* Approximately 20 “outlying transient sites” (used to hold detainees until they may be evacuated either to Kandahar or Bagram).
Detention facilities in:
• CIA interrogation facility at Bagram
• CIA interrogation facility in Kabul (known as “the Pit”)
• These sites may be part of the approximately 20 “outlying transient sites.”
GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA
• US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay
• Abu Ghraib (near Baghdad)
• Camp Cropper (near the Baghdad Airport)
• Camp Bucca (near Basra)
• Nine facilities under division or brigade command
Facilities run by military divisions:
• 1st Infantry Division DIF (Tikrit)
• 1st Marine Expeditionary Force DIF (Al Fallujah)
• 1st Cavalry Division DIF (Baghdad)
• 1st Armored Division DIF (Baghdad)
• Multi-National Division-South East (Az Zubayr)
Facilities run by military brigades:
• Dayyarah West (Multi-National Brigade – North)
• Tal Afar (Multi-National Brigade – North)
• Al Hillah (Multi-National Division – Center South)
• Wasit (Multi-National Division – Center South)
In addition, there are a number of ?brigade holding areas in division sectors? where detainees may be held up to 72 hours before transfer to Division facilities.
Ashraf Camp. Ashraf Camp is a detention facility for Mujahideen-E-Khalq (MEK), an Iraqi based organization seeking to overthrow the government in Iran. Ashraf Camp was disclosed as a detention site for MEK detainees in February 2004, but as of June 11, 2004, the Coalition Press Information Center (CPIC) refused to discuss the status or location of the MEK detainees.
• Kohat (near the border of Afghanistan) Alizai
• United States and United Kingdom officials deny repeated news reports indicating that at least some individuals are being detained on the British possession of Diego Garcia, including, at one time, the leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah, Hambali (Riduan Isamuddin).
• Al Jafr Prison (CIA interrogation facility)
• Naval Consolidated Brig (Charleston, South Carolina). This facility is where the US Government is detaining at least three individuals as ?enemy combatants?: two US citizens, Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, as well as a Qatari national residing in the United States, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri.
• US Naval Ships: USS Bataan and USS Peleliu.
Contact: Sean Crowley (202) 478-6128
David Danzig (212) 845-5252