Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Faciliated Suicide" and the Death of Mohammed Al Hanashi

In my article at Truthout the other day on the death of two of the purported suicides at Guantanamo, Abdul Rahman Al Amri in May 2007 and Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi in June 2009, I described in great detail the circumstances surrounding both deaths. The story was based on the recent declassified autopsies of the two men. (PDF links to Al Amri and Al Hanashi's autopsy reports.)

Al Amri was discovered hanging in his cell. Reportedly, his hands had been loosely tied behind his back. I criticized the Department of Defense for not following forensic SOP and considering homicide as a possibility in his death.

In Al Hanashi's death, a more solid case of suicide was present, although there were a number of discrepanies: his ligature is said at one point to be twisted on the right side of his neck, another time on the left side; the "elastic band" from his "brief" (supposedly used to kill himself) does not match the type of underwear in use at Guantanamo at this time; the timeline leaves unexplained why he was not on suicide watch after multiple recent attempts, or why there was a large gap in time that he was not observed, contrary to SOP procedures.

The discrepancies have led me to believe the most likely cause of Al Hanashi's death was faciliated suicide. All the available data now argues that camp guards and/or prison health officials, with or without the connivance of camp leadership, very likely provided the very mentally ill Al Hanashi with the means and the available time to kill himself.

Possible reasons were explored in the Truthout article. I will add that's it's possible that prison hospital officials had simply tired of Al Hanashi's chronic suicidality and self-mutilation (he had been consistently banging his head on the prison camps walls), and decided to let him die (criminal neglect) or facilitated his death by the proffer of materials and opportunity to make the fatal attempt.

Such facilitated suicide amounts to murder, and it is not unprecedented. Indeed, an article from 2009 describes just such a prison "suicide," arranged by prison personnel in the case of Matthew Bullock, a prisoner at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, Texas.
Bret Grote, an investigator with the chapter, said credible prisoners who were confined in cells near Bullock contacted the organization claiming that Bullock, though a known suicide risk, was moved from a video-equipped cell to one without monitoring capabilities.

And on the morning of the suicide, two guards at the Jackson Township facility had been kicking on Bullock’s cell door, saying, “Kill yourself, you little p****,” according to one prisoner report, Grote said.

Prisoners also reported to Fed Up! that prison staff failed to place Bullock on suicide monitoring watch after Bullock stated his intention to kill himself. Hours later, Bullock was found by guards on the next shift hanging dead from his cell door, Grote said.
According to one description, "facilitated suicide" "occurs because of CLINICIAN indifference." But as in the case of Bullock and most likely Al Hanashi, the actions can be even more active than the mere withdrawal of necessary care.

Both the deaths of Al Amri and Al Hanashi call out for an independent investigation. But it's unlikely anything approaching that will occur. The main reason is the indifference of the American public to the crimes that took place and still take place at the US gulag-style prison. The primary cause for such indifference is the subordination of American liberals to the electoral needs of presidential politics. With the looming election between Barack Obama and some GOP challenger, the fate of those in a prison where Obama has put his stamp of approval over the indefinite detention of the prisoners is a matter of no account to those who see in the election of a Democratic president the overarching goal of their political lives.

In addition, Obama has told his followers that they must "not look back" at the crimes that took place under the Bush administration, and that includes the torture of "war on terror" prisoners. But Al Hanashi died on Obama's watch. It's not about a failure of accountability over the past any more, but about burying a moral imperative against torture and murder so your candidate can be elected.

The failure to address the truth about the deaths of Al Amri and Al Hanashi, and the fate of the other Guantanamo detainees, may not be the worst capitulation the American political and journalist class (with a few notable exceptions) has committed, but it certainly will go down as one of the most despicable and cowardly.

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