GENEVA (AFP) -The suicide of three inmates at the US “war on terror” detention centre at Guantanamo Bay came as little surprise and highlights the need to shut down the controversial facility, the United Nations’ human rights office has said.
“It was a very, very tragic event. It was not completely unexpected that this would happen,” said Jose Diaz Tuesday, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The deaths, amid a prisoner hunger strike, were described by US officials as the first successful suicides after repeated attempts at the camp, which is located in a US military toehold in Cuba.
International human rights groups, UN watchdogs and many foreign governments have repeatedly criticised the United States for holding the vast majority of the around 450 detainees in a “legal black hole” since Guantanamo was set up in 2002.
Criticism of the prison surged after guards on Saturday found three inmates — two Saudis and a Yemeni — hanged from the ceilings of their maximum security cells.
“The focus on attention should be on closing Guantanamo. Practically everyone agrees on this,” Diaz told reporters.
“It would seem, judging from statements coming from the US administration, that some in the US administration also believe that this place should be closed,” he added.
Last week, US President George W. Bush said Friday that he hoped to “empty” Guantanamo by sending some detainees home and trying the most dangerous in US courts.
On Sunday Arlen Specter, a senior senator from Bush’s Republican party, joined other critics of the policy of prolonged detentions at the facility.
Washington does not acknowledge that the detainees are prisoners of war or entitled to the full protection of the Geneva Conventions.
Only a handful of the suspected Al-Qaeda members and Taliban fighters held there have been charged with terrorist crimes, but Washington says many of the other inmates are highly dangerous.
“What we need to do now is reflect collectively on how to facilitate the process of closing down Guantanamo and what’s going to be done with the people who are being held there in those conditions,” said Diaz.