Seton Hall Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-37
136 Pages Posted: 20 May 2011 Last revised: 31 May 2011
Date Written: December 12, 2009
On the night of June 9, 2006, three detainees died in maximum security section of the Guantánamo Bay Detention facility. The military’s initial press releases reported not only that the detainees were found hanging in their cells but also that their actions were a conspiracy as part of “asymmetrical warfare” against the United States. At the same time, the military ordered all media off the island and prevented all lawyers from visiting their clients.
Questions immediately arose about how three detainees, under constant supervision, were able to conspire effectively to commit coordinated suicides in non -adjacent cells. In August 2008 a heavily redacted report of the investigation concluded that the detainees had hanged themselves in their cells and that one detainee, while walking the corridors that night, had announced, “tonight’s the night.”
The investigation, however, leaves many unanswered questions. Three years later it is still unclear how such coordinated conduct would have occurred, much less how heavily supervised detainees could have been dead for more than two hours before they were discovered. Further, the exact manner of the deaths remain uncertain, and the presence of rags stuffed in the detainees’ throats is unexplained. Negligence of the guards seems to have been ruled out by the absence of any disciplinary action by any military personnel. The guards were formally advised of their right to remain silent, their right to counsel and the fact that anything that they said could be used against them because their original statements were suspected to be false. No such original statement appears in the record and no guard was ultimately charged with either making a false statement or being derelict in his duty.
This paper examines the investigation, not to determine what happened that night, but rather to assess why an investigation into three deaths could have could have failed to address significant issues. Further, the report raises serious questions that must be addressed if the government is to dispel rumors that the deaths were the result of something was more sinister than “asymmetrical warfare.”
This report reveals the following facts: The original military press releases did not report that the detainees had been dead for more than two hours when they were discovered, nor that rigor mortis had set in by the time of discovery. There is no explanation of how three bodies could have hung in cells for at least two hours while the cells were under constant supervision, both by video camera and by guards continually walking the corridors and responsible for only 28 detainees. There is no explanation of how each of the detainees, much less all three, could have done the following: braided a noose by tearing up his sheets and/or clothing; made a mannequin of himself so it would appear to the guards he was asleep in his cell; hung sheets to block vision into the cell - a violation of Standard Operating Procedures; tied his feet together; tied his hands together; hung the noose from the metal mesh of the cell and wall and/or ceiling; climbed up on the sink; put the noose around his neck and released his weight to result in death by strangulation; and then hung undetected for at least two hours.
Keywords: Guantanamo, detainees, torture, suicide, death, asymmetric warfare, investigation, official misconduct, cover up
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Denbeaux, Mark and Beroth, Brian and Buerkle, Scott and Camoni, Sean August and Chrisner, Meghan and Deutsch, Adam and Dresser, Jesse and Eadie, Doug and Fish, Michelle and Litwin, Marissa and McDonough, Michael and Patterson, Michael and Sterritt, Shannon and Stout, Kelli and Taylor, Paul W., Death in Camp Delta Seton Hall Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-37 (December 12, 2009). Seton Hall Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1582658 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1582658