Report on the Guantanamo Detainees During Detention: Data from Department of Defense Records

19 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2006

See all articles by Mark Denbeaux

Mark Denbeaux

Seton Hall University, School of Law

Joshua W. Denbeaux

Denbeaux & Denbeaux

John Gregorek

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: July 10, 2006


The recent deaths by suicide of three detainees at Guantánamo have raised questions about both the conditions under which such individuals are held and their dangerousness. The Government, consistent with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's description of the detainees as the worst of the worst, has uniformly portrayed the detainees as highly dangerous, even in the restrictive environment in which they are confined. Further, the Government has consistently characterized conduct that, on the surface, seemed to be attempts at suicide, as something other, and less serious, than suicide attempts. The recent success of the suicide attempts by the three detainees has led the Government to characterize these three suicides, and previous actions of detainees, as acts of Asymmetrical Warfare.

The Department of Defense has produced official records that provide some opportunity to assess the accuracy of the Government's description of the detainees and the characterization of their conduct, both in terms of how dangerous the detainees are to others and how dangerous the detainees are to themselves. The data does not support the assertion that the detainees are a serious threat to their captors. More importantly, the data does not support the Government's assertion that the detainees are not serious about taking their own lives.

This Report is the first effort to provide a more detailed picture of how the detainees have behaved during their detention at Guantánamo. This Report provides a window into the detainee behavior towards themselves and their guards. This Report is based entirely upon the United States Government's own documents or the Government's own public statements. The data shows, remarkably, that the detainees are comparatively cowed and unthreatening to their guards but pose a substantial danger to themselves.

• Government records reflect that detainees committed acts defined by the Government as manipulative self-injurious behavior more often than they commit disciplinary violations:

• Detainees committed 460 acts of manipulative self-injurious behavior in 2003 and 2004, an average of one such act every day and a half (one per every 1.59 days.) • Detainees committed 499 disciplinary violations over 2 years and eight months, an average of one incident every two days (one per every 1.91 days.)

• There are more hanging gestures by detainees than there are physical assaults on guards, based upon 120 hanging gestures for 2003 and 95 assaults and 22 attempted assaults for the 2 years and 8 months of reported disciplinary violations.

• More than 70% of the disciplinary violations, including assaults, are for relatively trivial offenses, and even the most serious are offensive but not dangerous. • The disciplinary reports reveal that the most serious injuries sustained by guards as a result of prisoner misconduct are a handful of cuts and scratches.

• Assuming no recidivism (obviously, an unlikely assumption), at least one third of the detainees have never committed a Disciplinary Violation.

• Nearly half (43%) of the reported Disciplinary Violations were for spitting at staff.

• Almost half of all disciplinary violations (46%) occurred during a 92-day hunger strike that followed allegations of Koran abuse by guards.

• For 736 of the 952 days covered by the Incident Reports, or 77%, the Government has released no report of a disciplinary violation.

• No act of asymmetrical warfare (e.g., suicide or hunger strike) is included in any Incident Report.

Keywords: Guantanamo, Guantánamo, detainee, suicide, asymmetrical warfare, disciplinary violations, hanging gestures, manipulative self injurious behavior, hunger strike, guards, captors, prisoners

Suggested Citation

Denbeaux, Mark and Denbeaux, Joshua W. and Gregorek, John Walter, Report on the Guantanamo Detainees During Detention: Data from Department of Defense Records (July 10, 2006). Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 916789. Available at SSRN: or

Mark Denbeaux (Contact Author)

Seton Hall University, School of Law ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States

Joshua W. Denbeaux

Denbeaux & Denbeaux ( email )

No Address Available
United States

John Walter Gregorek

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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