Death at Camp Delta

January 27, 2010

On the evening of June 9, 2006, three inmates of the Guantanamo detention facility known as Camp Delta, Salah Ahmed al-Salami, Mani Shaman al-Utaybi and Yasser Tala al-Zahrani, were found dead in their cells.

All three men had died in a very similar and somewhat bizarre circumstances hung alone in their individual cells, with bound hands and feet, and with a rag stuffed down their throats.

Their bodies were not discovered for two hours despite supposedly being under surveillance from both circulating guards and static cameras.

Senior military commanders at Guantanamo described the deaths as “an act of asymmetrical warfare” perpetrated by the dead men. A military investigation pronounced the deaths suicides.

No disciplinary action was taken against any member of the guard force despite manifest breaches in the standard operating procedures in effect at the facility on the night in question.

In December 2009 Seton Hall University School of Law published a detailed review of the military investigation based on redacted documents disclosed as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report, Death in Camp Delta, found that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation suffered from major shortcomings and raised “more questions than answers”.

Earlier this month an article written by Scott Horton for Harper’s Magazine appeared which went one step further. Based on new witness testimony from a former member of the Guantanamo guard force, Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman, Horton raised the possibility that all three men were murdered.

Sgt. Hickman also revealed the existence of what he believed to be a hitherto unreported black site near Camp Delta used for interrogations, which he and his colleagues had jokingly labeled ‘Camp No’. A facility broadly matching his description does appear on satellite images of the base.

There are important questions about what happened that night in Camp Delta that need answers. President Obama pledged that his administration would bring greater transparency to government and this case represents a real test of his resolve.

Yesterday, Amnesty International wrote formally to US Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to:

1) Release unredacted copies of the NCIS and SOUTHCOM investigations into the incident;

2) Publish the Department of Justice’s investigation of Sgt. Hickman’s allegations;

3) Reveal the purpose of the facility Hickman labeled ‘Camp No’; and

4) Publish any materials relating to the abuse of a fourth detainee, Shaker Aamer, reported to have taken place in Camp Echo on the same day.

We will keep you posted on the results.