US authorities will review the rules for handling and monitoring detainees at Guantanamo Bay following the suicides of three men there, military officials said.
The move was announced as defence lawyers demanded their clients have full access to US courts.
In Washington, lawyers for the detainees also said the Bush government should allow independent medical experts into the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba to examine prisoners.
“Guantanamo must be closed,” added Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer with the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which represents hundreds of Guantanamo detainees, including two of the three who committed suicide.
The military’s internal review will be separate to a probe by the naval criminal investigative service into the deaths of the men who hanged themselves inside their cells before dawn on Saturday, according to Navy Commander Robert Durand at the base in south-eastern Cuba.
“We will be looking at what were the procedures and were these procedures followed,” said Durand. “And do the procedures need to be modified?”
At least one detainee was able to conceal himself from guards by hanging laundry from the ceiling in his cell, Durand said.
One step the military has already announced was a new rule that allows detainees to only have sheets at night to limit the amount of time they would have to make nooses.
The military did not say how long it would take to conduct the review, which a Department of Defence official said was a standard reaction to such a serious incident.
“One of the things that the military does, and does very well, is examine itself,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters in Washington.
The investigation by the naval criminal investigative service will focus on the “cause and manner” of the three suicides, Durand said. Post mortem examinations of the men have been performed, but lab tests had not been completed, he said.
The suicides, the first since the US began using Guantanamo Bay to hold people suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban in January 2002, and a May 18 clash between guards and detainees do not suggest that the detention centre is out of control, Mr Whitman said.
“It is a professionally run, humane detention facility,” he said, adding that it keeps dangerous people from returning to the battlefield and provides “important” intelligence on terrorist networks.
The US identified the three men who hanged themselves inside their steel mesh cells as two detainees from Saudi Arabia, Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi and Yassar Talal al-Zahrani, and Yemeni prisoner Ali Abdullah Ahmed.
None was among the 10 Guantanamo detainees who have been charged with criminal offences and face military tribunals at the base, where the US holds about 460 detainees.