Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Blog

By Emily Jabareen

2012 Fall Intern

Yemeni citizen Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif died this past Saturday in his Guantanamo Bay prison cell. Though the main reason for his death was not disclosed in the official military announcement released Tuesday, the timing of his death sets the tone for a larger discussion of the US government’s legal handling of his case.

The death only shortly followed Eric Holder’s formal acquittal of CIA personnel allegedly involved in the death of two prisoners held in Iraq and Afghanistan before Memorial Day weekend, following an investigation that had lasted three years.

The verdict was handed down even after a military autopsy ruled one of the deaths, that of Manadel Al-Jamadi who died in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib, a homicide.  In his statement Eric holder ruled out prosecution on the grounds that “admissible evidence” was not “sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In Abdul Latif’s case, the main speculated cause of death is suicide, though the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has not yet released any conclusive statements to that effect. The circumstances surrounding his death are telling. Abdul Latif was ordered freed in 2012, a ruling that was subsequently overturned by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia a year later. On more than one account he displayed signs of mental instability and severe depression.

Accused of being recruited by an Al-Qaeda cell during his trip to Afghanistan for medical treatment, the primary evidence against Abdul Latif was one intelligence report prepared shortly after his detention, which was deemed flawed and insufficient during his court trial in 2010. Latif was later convicted when the report was deemed entitled to “a presumption of regularity” in the Court of Appeals. 

According to an article in the New York Times, the military had recommended that Abdul Latif be released in 2006 and yet again in 2008. Both the Bush and Obama administrations refused the recommendations respectively on security grounds.

Many have accused Guantanamo Bay of inappropriately holding detainees with tenuous legal status under tentative charges. The incident has sparked arguments over the continued operation of the facility, where indefinite detention without trial remains the experience of many detainees. Others have used this occasion to remind President Obama of his long-standing promise to close the facility. Whether any real progress on this front will emerge in the wake of Abdul Latif’s death remains to be seen. 

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