This article was published simultaneously here, and on the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.
Over the weekend, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni, became the ninth prisoner to die in Guantánamo. Adnan had been repeatedly cleared for release — under President Bush and President Obama, and by a US court — but had never been freed, like so many others in that disgraceful prison, which remains an insult to the rule of law ten years and eight months since it first opened.
Adnan was one of the prisoners profiled in the major report I wrote in June, Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago, and the overturning of his successful habeas corpus petition by politically motivated judges in the D.C. Circuit Court in October last year — and the refusal of the Supreme Court to rebuke the court, just three months ago — was notorious amongst attorneys for the prisoners and those interested in justice and the law, even though — sadly and shockingly — it had not awakened appropriate outrage in the mainstream media.
Last May, when the eighth prisoner died at Guantánamo — a man named Hajji Nassim, known to the US authorities as Inayatullah, who had serious mental health problems — I wrote an article entitled, The Only Way Out of Guantánamo Is In a Coffin, which was horribly accurate, as the last two prisoners to leave Guantánamo had left in coffins. The other, Awal Gul, had died in February.
At that time, unfortunately, there was little interest in the mainstream media in asking if refusing to release anyone from Guantánamo was an acceptable policy, when there were 87 men in the prison who had been cleared for release by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, but who were still held because of political inertia, support for their indefinite detention in Congress, hostility towards them in the D.C. Circuit Court, indifference in the Supreme Court, and a lack of sufficient outrage in the media or amongst the American people.
Now, perhaps, there will be a change. In the 17 months since Hajji Nassim died, just three more living prisoners have left Guantánamo, meaning that, of the last six to leave, just three have left alive. This would be a disgraceful statistic for any President, but it is particularly so for President Obama, who promised to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, but then failed to do so.
I will be writing more about Adnan Latif soon, but in the meantime I recommend those who are interested in knowing more to check out my archive of articles about his tragic case, which I have been following since 2006. Every death at Guantánamo is deeply felt, because these men were not deprived of their liberty by any legal means, but Adnan’s death is particularly shocking, as he was obviously so vulnerable and had been so scandalously scorned and abandoned by his captors, who didn’t care that his arbitrary detention — and that of many other prisoners — was essentially barbaric behavior.
Below is a poignant and powerful statement issued by Adnan’s lawyers, which I hope will be read and understood by anyone who cares to know why it is important that Guantánamo is closed, and that the 86 cleared prisoners who are still alive are released as soon as possible. I hope it also shows how it is necessary to behave with decency and respect for the law, and how, at Guantánamo, it is crucial not to accept the arbitrary detention of men against whom — in most cases — nothing resembling evidence of terrorist activities, or support for terrorism, has ever been established.
Adnan Latif’s death in US custody at Guantánamo is a tragedy. It could have been avoided.
Adnan spent more than ten years in Guantánamo — nearly a third of his life — but, like most Guantánamo detainees, he was never charged with a crime or accused of violating any law.
Adnan was slightly built and gentle, a husband and a father. He was a talented poet, and devoutly religious. The Administration cleared him for transfer back in 2009, but he was a Yemeni, and the Obama Administration will not send Yemenis home — even if, like Adnan, they have been cleared for transfer by a unanimous decision of all responsible agencies after a comprehensive review of the evidence.
Because Adnan was from Yemen, he remained imprisoned for three more years after being cleared — not for anything he supposedly did, but simply because of where he came from.
More tragic ironies abound. In 2010, a federal judge ruled that he should be released, but a divided appeals court overturned that ruling in a widely criticized decision a year later. Three months ago, the Supreme Court declined to restore the ruling, and instead let his case go back to district court for a new hearing that, sadly, will now never occur.
Amnesty International was about to launch a new worldwide campaign on his behalf.
Adnan consistently denied the government’s claims and maintained his innocence. He said that he was in Afghanistan when the United States began bombing in October 2001 because he was seeking free medical treatment for injuries he had suffered in a car accident as a teenager.
Fleeing Afghanistan, Adnan was captured and brought to Guantánamo, and held on claims that he was part of the Taliban. He was among the first detainees to arrive in January 2002. The military and the Administration cleared him for transfer, yet fought in court to keep him imprisoned.
Adnan endured great suffering at Guantánamo — physical and spiritual — and lived in constant torment. He complained of physical pain, impaired hearing and vision, untreated rashes, open sores, and unexplained bruises. He protested what he saw as the injustice of his confinement by hunger striking and injuring himself. He became mentally fragile and was at times sedated, placed on suicide watch, and sent to the prison’s psychological unit.
Adnan spent more than ten years in a foreign land separated from his family, his loved ones, and his home. He was charged with no crimes. He was cleared for transfer because the government did not believe his detention was necessary for our national security.
Yet he could see no end to his confinement.
However he died, Adnan’s death is a reminder of the injustice of Guantánamo, and the urgency of closing the prison. May this unnecessary tragedy spur the government to release the detainees it does not intend to prosecute.
David Remes (Contact: 202-669-6508 / firstname.lastname@example.org)
S. William Livingston
Brian E. Foster
James M. Smith
Philip A. Scarborough
Roger A. Ford
Marc D. Falkoff
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
When I first heard the news last night, I wrote on Facebook:
A ninth prisoner dies at Guantanamo, joining the three who died in 2006, one in 2007, 2008, 2009, and two in 2011. His identity is not yet known. I will provide an update when I have more details. It is always depressing when a prisoner dies at Guantanamo, as it brings home how so few of the men have ever had an adequate explanation of why they are held.
Kat Tehranchi wrote:
Mary Shepard wrote:
Why is this hell hole still open??????
Rehana Azam wrote:
They’re also giving him an autopsy before returning him to his family… something Muslims never do. Talk about insult to injury… or in this case murder.
Thanks, everyone, for your concern at this sad time, and Mary, you’ve asked the question so many want answering.
Diana Murtaugh Coleman wrote:
In concert with Mary’s ardent question, we must remain vocal in opposition to the current strategy of using drones to execute suspects without trial, often murdering those in the vicinity. One awful practice must not be supplanted by another.
Absolutely, Diana. What we need is an end to the warmongering mentality, and the self-justifying paranoia and aggression regarding America’s enemies, which always ends up – whoever is in charge – with violent conclusions to problems that can’t and won’t be solved by violence. How about a Presidential candidate who wants an end to all the wars, a huge downscaling of the military budget, and a vision of an America that tries to embrace the challenges ahead, for the people and the planet, rather than living life as though reality is a violent video game?
Mary Shepard wrote:
Obama has turned Bagram over to the Afghans – is this supposed to make us all happy and make us want to vote for him?
Jennah Solace wrote:
””Almost 11 years since the camp opened few people are concerned whether the men are imprisoned or free, whether they live or die,” said Begg, a British citizen who was released in 2005. — Wells Dixon, a lawyer who has represented a number of Guantanamo prisoners, said the sense of despair among prisoners overall seems to have worsened since the Supreme Court announced in June that it would not review the way courts were handling the men’s individual challenges to their confinement.
“The mood is very dark,” Dixon said. “There are a lot of guys who are having a really hard time … Many of them have lost any hope that they are ever going to be released regardless of their status.”
Durand, the prison spokesman, said the man who died Saturday had not been charged and was not designated for prosecution.” — http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/prisoner-dies-guantanamo-details-released-17201762#.UE72MbJlSZk
Jennah Solace wrote:
Andy, this is very, very depressing! To die in a state of hopelessness… to know that very few people even care… it’s tragic.
David Gould wrote:
Land of the Free…prove it.
Yes, very depressing indeed, Jennah. My only hope is that it will lead to renewed pressure to close the prison.
Jennah Solace wrote:
I wish and hope and pray!
Noel Juan wrote:
And when was Guantånamo supposed to be closed?
January 2010, Noel. On a little known day in January called “when hell freezes over.”
Today, when I posted this article on Facebook, I wrote:
So now we find out that it was Adnan Latif who died at Guantanamo. I’m hoping his death will not have been in vain, and that we can build momentum to free all the cleared prisoners. Adnan, who had mental health issues, was cleared by Bush in 2006 and Obama in 2009, and won his habeas petition, but he was a Yemeni, so freedom wasn’t an option. Shame on Obama, on Congress, and on the D.C. Circuit Court which reversed his successful petition, and the Supreme Court, which refused to consider his case in June. Everyone failed this poor man.
Hamja Ahsan wrote:
where can we read his poems?
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
I shared that, Andy.
Thanks for sharing, George. And Hamja, the poems are here:
Sara Mac Neice wrote:
So sorry to hear about this
Yes, it’s horrible, Sara, and difficult to read Wells Dixon talking about how despair stalks the cells of Guantanamo, particularly since the Supreme Court gave up on the prisoners – on Latif – in June. We have one particular question for the Obama administration now: “How many more have to die? How many more have to die before you free the men you already cleared for release?”
Mary Shepard wrote:
Thank you, Andy. I feel this young man’s death as if I’d known him personally. And as Dylan asked years ago, “how many deaths will it take til he knows that too many people have died?”
Remmic Lewis wrote:
Seeing this felt like a punch in the gut, I’m going to cry now. Hell on Earth.
Thanks, Mary and Remmic, for the powerful, heartfelt comments. “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan comes to mind as well. Excerpt below:
How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
Panis Hamma wrote:
This an utter, utter disgrace, but that’s Democratic Law for you NOT.
Leonardo L Larl wrote:
Andy, few hours ago I heard news in every western media outlet on the death of the american ambassador in Libya and main words were how a terrible tragedy has been, we’re going to hear about this for weeks or months, this once more give the pulse in the biased societies we live in.
Patricia Sheerin-Richman wrote:
Andy, I have suggested that we all write to Michelle Obama asking her to ask her wonderful husband to close Guantanamo Bay, as promised, and send all those loving fathers, husbands and brothers back to their families.
Thanks, Panis, Leonardo and Patricia. Good to hear from you all – and great to hear so many people recognizing how our supposedly fair and democratic systems are not what they claim to be. Guantanamo is, unfortunately, one of the most powerful examples of this hypocrisy and cruelty.
And Patricia, your idea is excellent!
SisterTogether Filleh wrote:
MY HEART GOES TO HIS FAMILY THATS BEEN WAITING FOR SO LONG FOR THE RETURN OF A SON A BROTHER OR A FATHER , AND WHAT THEY GONE GET ITS A DEAD BODY OF A INNOCENT MAN CLEAR TO RELEASE SINCE 4 YEARS , I AM SO UPSET TODAY AND SO SAD …..
ANY INFO HOW HE DIED WAS IT A SUICIDE OR ? BECAUSE HE WAS QUITE YOUNG ?
No one knows yet, Sister. He had mental health problems, and had resisted his imprisonment for years, most recently through a hunger strike. I’d say the damned place – and the man running it, President Obama – literally broke him, and broke him to death. Tragic. I am very sad, and also angry about it.
SisterTogether Filleh wrote:
ANDY I CANT SEE THE SCREEN ANYMORE .. TEARS AND SADNESS TAKING OVER MY EYES
LETS HOPE THAT WILL FREE ALL THE OTHER MEN , IT WONT BE FOR NOTHING , CLOSEEEEEEE THIS CONCENTRATION CAMP FOR GOD SAKE
Yes, I couldn’t agree more, Sister. I am in discussions with like-minded people, trying to work out what how we should put pressure on Obama to make sure that this poor man’s death was not in vain.
SisterTogether Filleh wrote:
i red and posted on assabirun the letter it self his words are heart breaking i feel guilty for not doing something when we knew , never to late to act!!!!
keep us update maybe all together we can do somethign and this is in deed the right time to act , with this new death and close this hell place , we need to act now and spread his story , i did it in french others need to help all together its time to act !, and andy thanks again for you amazing work
You are welcome, Sister. I am just sad that those in power care so little about the lives of those they have been holding at Guantanamo as scapegoats, as pawns in a political game, and as human beings without rights …
Andy, thanks for your recent coverage of the very sad story of Adnan Latif.
I took another look at his height and weight records. As per usual, there are some strange anomalies in them.
First, they are quite incomplete. The procedures set out for the captives’ medical care said that captives were supposed to be weighed once a month — more frequently if there weight was dangerously low.
There are twelve months where the records assert he was allowed to refuse to be weighed. There were a further seventeen months when the record asserts no attempt was made to weigh him at all.
His records contain a weight record for November 2001.
Thre are two occasions when he had two weights recorded on the same day. July 18, 2006 was one of those dates when two weights were recorded. Those two weights differ by 25 pounds — over 10 kilograms.
He had two weights recorded on June 23, 2006 — which differed by 3.7 pounds.
June 3, 2006, marks the beginning of daily weigh-ins. Captives with very low weights were supposed to be weighed more often. But his previous weigh in wasn’t in May. It was April 17. It says he weighed 168 pounds. He only has one weight recorded higher than 132 — the last recorded weigh-in was 140. So this weight of 168 is very remarkable. He gained 44.5 pounds over 28 days, and then lost 56 pounds over the next 45 days.
His lawyers say he engaged in multiple hunger strikes. But his weight records contain only the records of one hunger strike. One possible explanation is that different medical staff were responsible for captives in solitary, or captives in the psychiatric facility.
I think it is very likely that the outliers, the very low weight recorded on July 18, 2006, and the very high weight recorded on March 23, 2006, were the weights of completely different men.
Two identical weights, reported to an accuracy of a tenth of a pound, 2006-07-17 and 2006-07-17 are also noteworthy. Some other captives have many sequences of identical weights, reported to a precision of a tenth of a pound. Clear evidence of deceit I think. If a hunger striker consumed nothing, didn’t drink water, didn’t have bowel movements, or make water, their weight would still vary due to evaporation.
The normal range of body mass index for someone 65 inches tall, like Adnan Latif, would be 111 to 150 pounds — FWIW.
Thanks, arcticredriver, for the briefing based on your extensive analysis of the weight records – another depressing but important addition to the information available about Adnan, and how extensively he was neglected and/or abused. I recall seeing huge gaps in various prisoners’ records, and doubted the official explanation that they had simply refused to be weighed. More likely would be that they were out of circulation – in the psych ward, for example, which has been described to me by a former prisoner as the torture laboratory.
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