USA: Guantánamo death highlights urgent need to end indefinite detention

News
September 12, 2012

USA: Guantánamo death highlights urgent need to end indefinite detention

The death of a Yemeni man in his 11th year of detention without charge or trial at the Guantánamo Bay naval base highlights the urgent need for the US authorities to resolve outstanding detainee cases and close the detention centre once and for all, Amnesty International said.

On Monday US military authorities announced that a detainee had died at Guantánamo on the afternoon of 8 September, but withheld the man’s identity and nationality pending notification of his family. It has since been confirmed that the detainee was Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni national who had been held in the base since January 2002. He was the ninth Guantánamo inmate known to have died in custody in the decade since the US military began detention operations there.

Amnesty International calls on the US authorities to urgently resolve the cases of the 167 men still held at Guantánamo, in ways fully consistent with international human rights principles.

“Once and for all, the US military must bring the human rights vacuum at Guantánamo to an end – the detainees must be brought to fair trial in independent courts or released and trials by military commission should be abandoned,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International’s USA Researcher.

“The US authorities must allow a fully independent, civilian-led investigation into Adnan Latif’s death, and provide his family with full information about the findings and any other steps taken. The evidence from the autopsy and the investigation should be preserved.”

A Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) investigation has been initiated to determine the cause and circumstances of the death. According to the US military authorities, six of the previous eight deaths among the Guantánamo detainees had been the result of suicide while two died of natural causes.

Latif had been held without charge or trial for nearly 11 years, after Pakistani police arrested him near the border with Afghanistan in December 2001.

Later that month he was handed over to US authorities, who transferred him to Guantánamo on 17 January 2002. He was held in the naval base from then on.

During the decade plus that Latif spent in US custody there were ongoing concerns about his mental and physical health and, according to his lawyer, he spent most of the time in solitary confinement.

He had previously made a number of suicide attempts, and including by slitting one of his wrists during a meeting with a lawyer in 2009.

He had told lawyers that his circumstances “made death more desirable than living”, and complained of chronic back pain, and other ailments – the US military never complied with his request for a hearing aid to help with deafness in his left ear following a 1994 car accident.

In July 2010, a US federal judge ruled that Adnan Latif’s detention was unlawful, even under the broad authority claimed by the government, and that he should be released. The Obama administration appealed and in October 2011, the Court of Appeals overturned the ruling. In a meeting with his lawyer 11 days later, Adnan Latif said “I am a prisoner of death”.

In May 2012, he went on hunger strike to protest his ongoing detention. US military authorities said he ended the hunger strike on 1 June 2012.

Amnesty International reiterates that the families of those who have died at Guantánamo should have access to remedy, including compensation, for any human rights violations to which their relatives were subjected during their years in US custody, including arbitrary detention and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.