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How Three Hanging Corpses at Gitmo Went Unnoticed

How did prison guards at Guantanamo overlook three men hanging from nooses in their cells for more than two hours, in what was supposed to be a super-high security prison housing “the worst of the worst” terrorists in the world?

Andrew Sullivan highlights an amazing new study released today by Seton Hall University Law School and directed by law professor Mark Denbeaux, reveals bizarre problems in the government’s investigation of those three alleged suicides.

According to the government, three prisoners were found hanging in three separate cells just after midnight on June 10, 2006. Autopsies later revealed they’d been hanging that way for at least two hours. Although five guards were supposedly responsible for 24-hour supervision of 28 detainees in the the constantly-lit prison cells, which were also monitored by video cameras, the hanging men somehow went undetected.

Each detainee was supposed to be observed individually at least one every ten minutes by guards. Apparently, that didn’t happen.

According to the Seton Hall study (PDF), in order to have committed suicide by hanging, the detainees had to:

  • Braid a noose by tearing up their sheets and/or clothing
  • Make mannequins of themselves so it would appear to the guards they were asleep in their cells
  • Hang sheets to block the view into the cells, in violation of SOPs
  • Stuff rags down their own throats
  • Tie their own feet together
  • Tie their own hands together
  • Hang the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall and/or ceiling
  • Climb up on to the sink, put the noose around their necks and release their weight, resulting in death by strangulation
  • Hang dead for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards

Denbeaux and his team of researchers report that no guards were ever disciplined for overlooking the incident.

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