The U.S. military confirms that 23 terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay attempted a mass suicide in 2003. The detainees tried to hang or strangle themselves between Aug. 18 and Aug. 26 that year. Jackie Northam reports.
Statement from the U.S. Southern Command
The U.S. Southern Command issued the following statement confirming that nearly two dozen detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, tried to hang themselves during a mass protest during the summer of 2003:
We thoroughly reviewed all the records for that time period to be certain we could give you the fullest details possible within the constraints of operational security. Here are the facts:
· Between 18-26 August 2003, 23 detainees demonstrated self-injurious behavior in a coordinated effort to disrupt camp operations and challenge a new group of security guards from the just-completed unit rotation.
· The self-injurious behavior included simultaneous attempts at hanging or strangulation gestures. Of the 23 detainees involved, 10 made their gestures on 22 August 2003. These attempts were included in the public information, previously released, on the number of suicide attempts and self-injurious behavior incidents, which had occurred at GTMO.
· The JTF medical staff classified two detainees' actions as suicide attempts.
· Of the 23 detainees involved, two required treatment in the Detention Hospital. Each of these detainees was treated for minor injuries, remained in the Detention Hospital for less than 48 hours for observation, and subsequently were transferred to the Behavioral Health Services Unit.
· The JTF medical staff evaluated the other 21 detainees at the Detention Hospital and then sent them to the Behavioral Health Services Unit for evaluation and monitoring.
· The JTF chain of command was notified of these incidents and reported them as required to SOUTHCOM.
· Of the 23 detainees who participated in this incident, 16 remain in the camps. Seven detainees have been transferred from Guantanamo Bay.
· The Joint Detention Operations Group continually assesses the camp's population for whom the informal leaders are, the mood of the detainees, and their ability to communicate with each other.
· That assessment has enabled the leadership to take numerous measures to reduce the opportunity for detainees to communicate a coordinated self-harm incident, or strike out at another detainee or the guard force.
· There have been no successful suicide attempts at GTMO. This is because of a vigilant, well-trained guard force, charged with the safe, humane custody of the detainees and because of that force's ability to rapidly and properly respond.