Since the Pentagon announced a detainee died yesterday, I’ve been praying it wouldn’t be Adnan Farhan abd al Latif, even as details suggesting it was–that the detainee who had died had been a hunger striker, that he had never been charged–piled up.
But I knew it was.
The detainee found dead in a maximum-security cell at Guantánamo was a Yemeni captive with a history of suicide attempts who at one time won a federal judge’s release order, only to see his case overturned on appeal and rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The detention center on Tuesday identified the dead captive as Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, in his 30s, held since January 2002 as prisoner No. 156.
Latif was found unconscious in his cell Saturday afternoon, the military said. Guards and military medical staff could not revive him. He was the ninth detainee to die in the 11 years of the detention center.
The military withheld Latif’s identity while the Naval Criminal Intelligence Service began an investigation and the Obama administration notified members of Congress and Latif’s family of the death.
What did they think would happen to this man, against whom there was just one scrap of evidence, an intelligence report, with several acknowledged errors, from an interrogation taken in Pakistani custody at a time when Pakistanis were inventing stories about Arab men for bounties. DOD even had exonerating information about Latif–evidence from their own intake form that he had the medical records showing a head injury he claimed he had traveled to Pakistan to treat. And DOD had cleared Latif for release over and over and over.
In spite of that, both the Obama Administration and Circuit Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown proceeded on the assumption that inculpatory government records were entitled to a presumption of regularity, but exculpatory ones weren’t.
It was as if it was just a joke, some rigged game to help the Obama Administration shut away Gitmo, back to what it had been before Boumediene.
I’m sure they’ll release a report that Latif finally found a way to bypass all the efforts the government had made to force him to live out this limbo, a probably innocent man rounded up in the confusion after 9/11. I’m sure they’ll say Latif killed himself.
But Latif gave our legal system a good faith effort, fighting all the way to the Supreme Court. And it failed him. It failed to uphold the simple principle that the government’s evidence to hold someone indefinitely should be something more than a single problematic interrogation report refuted by 10 years of interrogations.
And whatever report they release explaining his cause of death, it was that fundamental injustice that killed him.
Update: Here are all my posts on Latif.
Update: Some more key documents on Latif:
Witness for Torture’s page on Latif, including a poem he wrote about his despair
An amicus curiae brief from intelligence professionals and evidence professors calling for Latif’s release
An amicus curiae brief from a bunch of retired judges talking about the damage this case would do to habeas