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Many perils at Guantánamo - for Bush, too

Suicides at the detention camp follow already-sharp international criticism of US.

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The recent suicide deaths at the US terrorism detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are drawing sharp scrutiny of the use of an overseas naval base to indefinitely hold terror suspects.

In addition, the deaths point up a growing dilemma for the Bush administration as it seeks to maintain an array of options in fighting the war on terror in the face of rising domestic and international criticism.

Guantánamo Bay was primarily selected as a remote, offshore venue for open-ended interrogations and military tribunals to try suspected war criminals. It was seen as a place beyond the reach of most US constitutional protections.

The harsh treatment of Al Qaeda suspects at Guantánamo was billed as part of an aggressive interrogation process aimed at obtaining actionable intelligence that might help prevent future terror attacks.

But critics of Guantánamo say the Bush administration appears to have miscalculated. America's tough policies have generated intense criticism among human rights activists both at home and abroad. US allies in Europe as well as the United Nations Committee Against Torture are calling on the US to close the detention camp. The US Supreme Court is expected this month to rule on whether the administration's plan for military trials at Guantánamo comports with constitutional safeguards and international treaty obligations.

The suicides of two Saudis and a Yemeni on Saturday inject a sense of urgency into questions about US antiterror tactics. The three men used bed sheets and clothing to fashion makeshift nooses, officials said.

They were among 460 detainees currently housed at Guantánamo, many of whom have been held without charge or contact with family members for more than four years.

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