Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif's death at Guantánamo was announced yesterday on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. This sad case is a stark illustration of the United States government bypassing human rights obligations in its counter-terrorism policies, leaving scores of detainees in Guantánamo to live, and sometimes die, in indefinite detention.
Latif was seized by Pakistani police in December 2001 near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, handed over to U.S. custody, and transferred to Guantánamo on Jan. 17, 2002. He had been held at the naval base ever since, in deteriorating mental and physical health. Reportedly, Latif was born in 1976 in Yemen. According to his lawyer, David Remes, Latif was a mentally disturbed man who maintained that he went to Afghanistan seeking medical care because he was too poor to pay for it. But he got caught up in a military sweep and the U.S. government alleged that he was recruited by al Qaeda to travel to Afghanistan and that he trained and fought with the Taliban.
Reportedly, the Department of Defense recommended Latif for transfer as far back as 2004, and again in 2006, 2008, and 2009. In July 2010, District Court Judge Henry Kennedy ruled
that the government had not proved its case for holding Latif by "a preponderance of the evidence" and concluded that Latif's detention was unlawful.
But he remained detained. The conditions he faced at Guantánamo were horrendous and he had gone on a hunger strike to protest them. According to his attorney, Latif had been held in solitary confinement for the majority of his detention and had never received adequate treatment for medical problems he had suffered throughout his decade at the detention center. In a letter to his lawyers in March 2010, Latif alleged that Guantánamo's Immediate Response Force (IRF), "[entered] my cell on [a] regular basis. They throw me and drag me on the floor...two days before writing this letter, [the IRF team] strangled me and pressed hard behind my ears...I lost consciousness for more than an hour." And in a meeting with his lawyerat Guantánamo on May 10, 2009, Latif cut one of his own wrists. He had previously made a number of suicide attempts. Writing to his lawyer from isolation in Guantánamo's Camp 5 in March 2010, he said that his circumstances make "death more desirable than living."
On Oct. 14, 2011, nearly a decade after Latif was taken into custody, a divided panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled 2-1 for the government, overturning Judge Kennedy's order. The government argued that Judge Kennedy had failed to properly assess Latif's credibility and had been wrong in his assessment of the reliability of the intelligence report.
Meeting with his lawyer in Guantánamo after the appellate ruling, Latif said "I am a prisoner of death." His lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to review Latif's case. On June 11, 2012, the Court refused to do so, without comment. A Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) investigation has been initiated to determine the circumstances and cause of Latif's death. Amnesty International is calling on the United States government to also allow a fully independent, civilian-led investigation into the death, in accordance with its obligations under international law, and for Adnan Latif's family to be provided with full information about the investigation and any other steps taken. The evidence from the autopsy and the investigation should be preserved. 167 people remain detained at the U.S. Naval Station in Cuba. Four years ago, President Obama pledged to close the Guantánamo prison, recognizing that it symbolized the U.S. government's violation of human rights and the best of American values in the name of "global war." Not only has President Obama failed to close it, he has embraced two fundamental violations of human rights that make Guantánamo a stain on the United States' credibility worldwide: unfair trials and indefinite detention.
The U.S. justice system should be used to end unlawful detentions at Guantánamo, with those held being charged and tried in federal court, or released to countries that will respect their human rights. At Guantánamo, Latif waited for more than ten years for justice. He'll never be heard again and justice for Latif will never be served.