A foreign terrorism suspect with a record of disciplinary infractions has died at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, the ninth fatality since the prison opened more than a decade ago, the Pentagon announced Monday.
The name, nationality and age of the detainee were withheld pending notification of his family and home country, according to a statement issued by Joint Task Force Guantanamo. An autopsy was planned and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service was investigating the circumstances of the man’s death, the statement said.
Guards walking routine patrols of the Camp V maximum-security cellblocks Saturday found the prisoner unresponsive and transferred him to the Navy base hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the military said.
At the time of his death, the prisoner was on disciplinary status for having thrown a “cocktail” of body fluids and food at a guard, said Capt. Robert T. Durand, spokesman for the prison.
The prisoner had been involved in hunger strikes, Durand said, but had resumed taking meals in June and was at 95% of his ideal body weight at the time of his death.
Two of the previous eight prisoners who died at the facility were said to have succumbed to natural causes. Six were suicides.
After the first three suicides in June 2006, in what was seen as the prisoners’ coordinated protest of unlimited detention, the military jailers at Guantanamo instituted a number of suicide prevention policies. At least for some months, that included collecting bedsheets from the cells each morning to deter prisoners from ripping them apart and fashioning them into nooses.
The Guantanamo detention network was opened in January 2002 to hold the first of what would eventually number nearly 800 foreign men suspected of involvement in terrorism plots. Most were released to their home countries after years of detention without charges.
No updated prisoner count was included in the statement on the latest death, but the number is believed to be 167 because a July 11 news release on the transfer of a detainee said 168 men remained at Guantanamo at that time.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which has provided legal representation to hundreds of Guantanamo prisoners as well as surviving family members of other men who died at the prison, condemned the latest death and blamed it on the Obama administration’s failure to close the detention center and war crimes tribunal as promised during the 2008 campaign.
“More than half the men remaining at Guantanamo have been cleared for transfer but remain imprisoned, trapped by politics,” the rights group said. “Whether because of despair, suicide or natural causes … death has become an inevitable consequence of President Obama’s failure to close the prison.”