WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Thursday
there has been another suicide attempt among inmates at its
Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorist suspects, bringing the number to
five in three weeks.
''Medical and psychiatric teams are working to try to prevent
further injury or attempts,'' Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Lt. Cmdr.
Barbara Burfeind said, declining further comment.
Including the 10 attempts in all of 2002, the new case brought
the total to 15 since the high-security prison was built on the U.S.
naval base a year ago to house men captured in the fight against
terrorism. The five cases this year have all come since Jan. 16
Noting previous suicide attempts, the rights group Amnesty
International has protested the prolonged detention and the
uncertainty the men face about their future, saying it may cause
physical and psychological harm.
Some of the men have been held more than a year under
interrogation by the military without charges, trial or access to
lawyers or their families.
The Bush administration has designated the men ''unlawful
combatants,'' saying they are not entitled to the same rights as
prisoners of war but are being treated humanely. Officials decline
to say exactly how many are held and what their nationalities are,
though the roughly 625 men are believed to come from more than 40
The facility has shifted its handling of prisoners in recent
months after coming under a new commander.
Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who took over in November, said
in a recent interview he was going to offer more rewards for
cooperative behavior, such as chances to sleep, eat and pray
together in a new medium-security detention wing. Until now, all men
have been held in isolation in high-security cells.
Officials have declined to say what other changes he has
instituted, though one said Miller was sent in to improve
performance of interrogations at a time when officials were
frustrated at the amount of information coming from stonewalling
Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus, the previous commander in charge of
detention -- meaning housing, guards, security and so on -- left in
October amid complaints from some interrogators that he had been too
concerned about prisoner treatment.
Miller was sent in to consolidate control over detention issues
and interrogations, which had been under two commanders.
The recent string of suicide attempts started Jan. 16, when a
prisoner was found hanging in his cell and a guard rescued him. His
government was notified because his injuries were so serious,
Burfeind said, adding that he was still hospitalized Thursday.
The four after that were treated and returned to their cells.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said the main goal of
interrogations has been to get information prisoners may have about
planned attacks or terrorist organizations.
He said those who are not a threat, not candidates for trial and
of no further intelligence value will be transferred from the
facility. Five prisoners have gotten out so far; officials said they
had no information about how many more might be under consideration
for release or trials.
Rumsfeld said Tuesday that ``these people are being treated
properly, and the process is going along, and information's being
gathered, intelligence information, and it's to the benefit of our
Sweden this week demanded that one of its citizens held in Cuba
be tried or