Death, Detention, & the GWOT

Significance of the June 9, 2006 Deaths in Conjunction with the Global War on Terror

On September 14, 2001, Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing the President to use military force against the nations, organizations, and persons who authorized, aided and/or committed the September 11 terrorist attacks. Since this authorization, the United States has faced criticism both abroad and at home for its actions in the Global War on Terror ranging from the government’s failure to ether capture or kill Osama Bin Laden to both the human and the financial cost of the war to the various alleged human rights abuses and criminal misconduct.

Three men died while detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on the night of June 9, 2006. On June 10, 2006, the Department of Defense concluded that these three deaths were coordinated suicides in an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against the United States of America. Media and human rights organizations accepted the three deaths as acts of desperation.

Compared to, for example, the 2,995 deaths that occurred in the September 11 attacks, the estimated 929 Afghan civilian deaths that occurred in 2006 alone, and the estimated 98 total detainee deaths that have occurred while in US custody — coupled with the already extensive and seemingly endless incarceration that each man had already experienced — it is difficult to initially see the significance of the government’s actions in conjunction with the three deaths.

In August 2006, the Center for Policy and Research released its report titled “June 10th Suicides at Guantánamo: Government Words and Deeds Compared.” This document profiled the three men. Amongst its findings, the report found that Yassar Talal Al-Zahrani (ISN 093) was originally captured when he was either 16 or 17 years old and, at the time of his death, had been detained in GTMO for over four years. Further, the report found that Mani Shaman Turki Al-Habardi Al-Utaybi (ISN 588) had been cleared for transfer to Saudi Arabia after previously being charged with being involved with Jama’at al Tablighi, a mainstream international Islamic religious community. Additionally, it was reported that the victims were previously cleared for release at the time of his death.

The Research Fellows at the Center for Policy and Research analyzed the government’s investigative findings in its report Death in Camp Delta and found that the three men could not have committed suicide as it was described. Further, the Fellows found that the government was negligent in its investigation, negligent in its actions, and negligent in its lack of accountability following the three deaths by failing to respond with an honest investigation.

The allegation that the government publicly concealed the true nature of these deaths by reporting investigative findings that were unsupported by evidence and through the manipulation of both the media and its investigators is, even given the scope of the headlines related to the War on Terror, significant. Who was involved with the three deaths? What really happened both before and after these men died? Why was the true cause of these three deaths concealed? The very existence of these questions — after enlisted personnel and members of the administration went on the record supporting the investigative findings of the NCIS — suggests that the level of negligence displayed both by those responsible for caring for the detainees and those responsible for investigating the death of the detainees requires accountability.

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