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USA: Another suspicious death at Guantanamo Bay

Alkarama for Human Rights, 8 June 2007

Abdul Rahman Ma’ath Thafir, a Saudi citizen, was found dead in his cell on 29 May 2007 at GuantanamoBay camp.  The American military authorities concluded that it was an “apparent suicide.”

Abdul Rahman Ma'ath Thafir, aged 34, reached Guantanamo in February 2002.  “The detainee was found unresponsive and not breathing in his cell by guards. The detainee was pronounced dead by a physician after all lifesaving measures had been exhausted,” according to the US Army Southern Command.  It has not, however, been revealed how Al Amri died.  Abdul Rahman Al Amri is one of the 40 detainees who went on hunger strike in 2005.

The deceased’s body was repatriated to Saudi Arabia where it was taken to a hospital in Riyadh for an examination and for identification by his relatives.  The latter rejected the American official explanation before becoming aware of the results of this examination.  His brother explained that Al Amri’s body presented no trace that would lead to the conclusion of suicide.

The Saudi Ministry of the Interior spokesman Gen. Mansour Al-Turki declared that a special medical committee would undertake an autopsy.  A report would then be sent back to the US authorities.

On 10 June 2006, three detainees were found dead in their cells.  The American authorities had claimed there too that they were suicides.  In the case of Ahmed Ali Abdullah, a Yemeni citizen, Alkarama for Human Rights helped the family organise an autopsy of their son’s body.  The organisation commissioned a medical team headed by the director of the University of Lausanne’s Institute of Legal Medicine.  The examination took place at the Sanaa Military Hospital.

The autopsy report revealed a certain number of anomalies, in particular the American authorities’ keeping anatomical organs corresponding to the upper airways, which constitute the centrepiece in a case of suicide by hanging.  In the two other cases of the suspicious deaths of Yassir Talal az-Zahrani and Mani’ Shaman al-Utaybi, these organs were also removed (cf. communiqué of 29 May 2007).

Nearly 800 prisoners have passed through Guantanamo Bay camp since it opened in 2002.  Some 380 are still detained there, in some cases without charge or trial for over five years.