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Death by Detention

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June 4, 2009

Last week, our friend – journalist Andy Worthington – reminded readers of a forgotten anniversary: the second anniversary of a death at Guantánamo – apparently by suicide.

This week, the world learned of yet another death at Guantánamo – another apparent suicide of 31-year old Yemeni national Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih – who has been detained since February, 2002. Salih’s death bumps up the total death count at Gitmo to six. Of these deaths, five are believed to be suicide.

As Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with our National Security Project, stated, “Tragic deaths like this one have become all too common in a system that locks up detainees indefinitely without charge or trial.”

You may recall that back in January, the ACLU and a handful of other human rights groups sent a letter to President Obama asking him to grant full access to the detention center so that we could review the conditions of confinement and make recommendations for revising U.S. detention policies. We were never granted access.

In light of this tragic news, we are renewing that call, and asking for an immediate, independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding this apparent suicide and the conditions of confinement at Guantánamo.

In an ACLU statement about the suicide, Ben also stated: “There is no room for a system of indefinite detention without charge or trial under our Constitution. Detainees against whom there is legitimate evidence should be tried in our federal courts – not in the reconstituted military commissions now being proposed. Those against whom there is no legitimate evidence must not be given a de-facto life sentence by being locked up forever.”

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