CCR Files Damages Claims on Behalf of Families of Men Who Died at Guantanamo

New York, NY – Center for Constitutional Rights attorneys today filed two tort claims against the Department of Defense on the second anniversary of the deaths of three Guantanamo prisoners.

Today’s filings seek damages on behalf of two of the families that suffered emotional distress after the death of their sons at the prison.

“Two years ago today, Salah Al Salami, Mani Al-Utaybi and Yasser Al-Zahrani died in U.S. custody at Guantánamo. The government says it is investigating, but has yet to release any information about the cause or circumstances of the deaths. After two years, there has still been no public accounting for what happened to these men at Guantánamo,” said CCR Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei.

The claims were filed on behalf of the fathers of Salah Al Salami and Yasser Al-Zahrani and cite the “callous behavior” of the government following their sons’ deaths. For example, although Islamic law requires that bodies be buried within 24 hours of death where possible, Al-Zahtani’s body was not returned to Saudi Arabia until six days after his death; Al Salami’s body was not returned until five days after his death, and he was not able to be buried for another five days. In addition, the public has yet to learn about the results of autopsies performed by government doctors following their deaths.

A total of five people have died at Guantanamo to date, and none of the deaths have been properly documented or accounted for.

“These deaths raise concerns about the 270 detainees who remain at the base. We need to learn the results of the still-pending investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS). It is critical to make the information available to the public and to the families of the deceased,” Kebriaei said.

Two years later, a similar scenario occurred, as the Bush administration failed to notify the family and counsel of Mohammed al Qahtani, a Saudi national who was facing the death penalty, when he attempted suicide after he learned the government was seeking the death penalty in his case. Those charges were later dropped, but he remains in indefinite detention without hope at the base.

“The government refers to attempted suicides as “asymmetric warfare,” said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. “It’s hard to imagine a more Orwellian phrase.”

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court on December 5, 2007.  For more information on CCR's work, click here.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

August 29, 2008