Did Guantánamo Guards Murder 3 Prisoners?

Sunday, January 18, 2015
Rear Admiral Harry Harris

A former guard at Guantánamo Bay has given an account shedding light on the deaths of three prisoners that military authorities labeled suicides.


On June 10, 2006, three prsioners—Salah Ahmed Al-Salami of Yemen, and Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani of Saudi Arabia—were found hanging in their cells. The base commander, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, said not only were the deaths suicides, but were orchestrated to make the United States look bad. “I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us,” he said.


As previously reported by AllGov “In order to accept the official explanation of the death of the three prisoners, it is necessary to believe that each of them:

1)  braided a noose by tearing up their sheets or clothing

2)  hung the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall or ceiling

3)  made a mannequin of himself to trick the guards into thinking he was asleep in his bed

4)  hung a sheet to block the view into his cell

5)  tied his feet together

6)  shoved rags into his mouth and down his throat

7)  tied his own hands together

8)  climbed up onto the sink, put the noose around his neck and jumped off, causing death by strangulation”


Now Staff Sgt. Joseph Hickman, who was on duty the night of the deaths, in a video interview with Vice News, has called the official version of events “impossible.”


Hickman says the men were killed because they were regular hunger strikers and urged other prisoners to join them in the strikes. “They had a policy that if a detainee is hunger-striking, he cannot be interrogated,” Hickman said. “In 2006, they were doing roughly 200 interrogations a week, so any massive hunger-strike would, what they consider, cripple the intelligence value.


“I believe the number-one mission in JTF-GTMO (Joint Task Force Guantanamo) at the time was, stop the hunger strikes at all costs. I think you get rid of the people that provoked the hunger strikes and you get rid of the problem. After the deaths there were no hunger strikes for a long period of time,” Hickman said.


Hickman’s revelations were first made in a 2010 interview with Harper’s magazine, when he said he watched as a truck took the prisoners one by one from their cells to a secret facility on base. He said the three were later brought to the detainee clinic. When the article came out, the military contended that Hickman was outside the perimeter and not even able to see the entrance to the block where the prisoners were kept.


None of the three deceased prisoners were charged with a crime.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

The VICE News Interview: Joseph Hickman

Guantanamo Guard: ‘CIA Killed Prisoners and Made It Look Like Suicide’ (by Emma Reynolds, news.com.au)

The Mysterious Deaths of 3 Guantánamo Prisoners—Update (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

The Mysterious Deaths of 3 Guantánamo Prisoners (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Death in Camp Delta (Center for Policy and Research, Seton Hall University Law School) (pdf)


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