Amnesty International Urges Independent Investigation of Guantánamo Detainee Death

Press Release
May 19, 2011

Amnesty International Urges Independent Investigation of Guantánamo Detainee Death

Contact: AIUSA media relations, 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.) –The United States military must allow a fully independent, civilian-led investigation into the death of a detainee at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo in Cuba, Amnesty International said today.

United States military authorities said that guards at the detention center yesterday found the body of Inayatollah, a 37-year-old Afghan national. He was "unresponsive and not breathing" after what the guards concluded was an "apparent suicide."

A Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) investigation has been initiated to determine the circumstances and cause of his death.  

"Previous investigations carried out by this service into detainee deaths have lacked independence and transparency," said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Americas Program director.

According to the Pentagon, Inayatollah was transferred to Guantánamo in September 2007, one of the last detainee arrivals at the base. In a 2007 press release announcing his transfer, the military authorities stated that he had been taken to the Naval Base because of his "high placement in al Qaeda." He was held without charge or trial at Guantánamo for nearly four years.

Since the first transfers to Guantánamo in January 2002, eight men are known to have died at the detention center. According to the U.S. military authorities, six of them died as a result of suicide and two from natural causes.

In June 2006, U.S. authorities announced the deaths by apparent suicide of Saudi Arabian nationals Mane’i bin Shaman al-‘Otaybi and Yasser Talal al-Zahrani and Yemeni national Salah Ahmed al-Salami.  Saudi Arabian national Abdul Rahman Ma’ath Thafir al-Amri was declared dead after apparent suicide in May 2007 and in June 2009 the U.S. Department of Defense announced that Yemeni national Mohammed Ahmed Abdullah Saleh al-Hanashi had committed suicide.  Many others are reported to have attempted suicide at the detention center.

Afghan nationals Abdul Razzak and Awal Gul died from natural causes while detained at Guantánamo in 2008 and 2011 respectively.

"Inayatollah’s family must be provided with full information about his death, as well as the investigation and any other steps taken in its aftermath," said Lee. "The families of those who have died at Guantánamo should also have access to remedy, including compensation, for any human rights violations to which their relatives were subjected during their years in U.S. custody, including arbitrary detention, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Amnesty International continues to call on the United States to bring the detainees still held in Guantánamo to fair trial in independent courts, or to release them.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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