Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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May 31, 2007

A “high value” Saudi Arabian detainee committed suicide yesterday at Gitmo, the military announced yesterday in a “succinct” missive. His follows three others in June. Mr. Glaberson at the Times ties it to creeping despair among the detainees.

Several of the detainees’ lawyers have said in recent months that the psychological condition of many of the detainees was markedly deteriorating. They said that some detainees had begun to feel that they would never emerge alive from Guantánamo, which was opened at a detention camp more than five years ago.Some of the lawyers have publicly warned that more suicides are inevitable. Last night, one of those lawyers, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, said that if the Saudi death was a suicide it was a public sign of the hopelessness at the camp.“It was simply a matter of time before this suicide,” Mr. Colangelo-Bryan said, “and I imagine it is only a matter of time before the next.” He said that detainees in their sixth year of detention speak of being told that they have no legal rights and will never leave Guantánamo.

It also comes as the command prepares to arraign two detainees Monday, who are charged with war crimes (meaning that they’ll be brought before a military commission). One, a Canadian named Omar Khadr, was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan. Khadr, now 20 (which says a lot about Gitmo), fired his military attorneys yesterday. He is now unrepresented. Sayeth the Associated Press:

Khadr fired his American attorneys yesterday, leaving him without defense counsel as his arraignment approaches, his former U.S. military attorney said. “He doesn’t trust American lawyers, and I don’t particularly blame him,” said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who was taken off the case yesterday. “The United States is responsible for his interrogation and his treatment under a process that is patently unfair.”

Along with Khadr, the second detainee set for arraignment is Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the alleged “driver” for Osama Bin Laden who won a key Supreme Court case last year.Most of the commentary so far has focused on how the psychology of indeterminate detention led to the latest suicide. But, perhaps it would be more elucidatory to examine the legal regime that led to this seemingly perpetual incarceration, and why it creates such despair. Remember that the only reason the Gitmo detainees feel like they’ll be there forever is because the administration contends that it has the inherent authority to detain them until the “end of hostilities,” which in the “global war on terror” could be never.There’s also a deeper point. Gitmo is essentially lawless, and by that I mean the procedures and rules it follows have been created on the fly by an administration dedicated to asserting executive authority over the other branches of government wherever and whenever possible. That ideological hostility to checks and balances is the real culprit behind the problems at Gitmo.

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