When I heard about the death of Guantanamo detainee Adnan Latif, found dead on Saturday in his cell after 10 years of isolation without trial, found dead in his cell despite being twice recommended for release during the Bush Administration, found dead in his cell despite never having been charged with a war crime, found dead in his cell after consistently manifesting serious forms of mental illness, found dead in his cell after the rule of law was twisted beyond recognition to prevent his release, I thought of Russian literature.
Blocked by the courts, spurned by the president, scorned by lawmakers, Adnan Latif lived in a place wholly unrecognizable to most Americans, even in fiction; a place where men are turned mad by indifference, where flawed evidence is made material by weaselly judges, and where injustice is done in the name of justice. For generations now, all over the world, people will cite this case when they cite the many ways in which America has lost its moral compass in the treatment of the detainees. And it’s a disgrace not just because Latif died the way he did, his due process rights a mockery, but because even after his death nothing much under law, or at Guantanamo, is likely to change. (Andrew Cohen). More here.
Adnan Latif first came to my attention when I was researching the prisoners’ stories for my book The Guantánamo Files in 2006. There was evidently something not right about him, which, it seemed clear, was attributable to the fact that he had suffered a serious head wound in a car crash in Yemen in 1994. This, in turn, had been the reason that he had traveled to Pakistan and then Afghanistan prior to his capture in December 2001 — for affordable medical treatment, as he explained –and the precarious state of his mental health had been obvious to me when I read the transcript of his tribunal at Guantánamo in 2004.
[...] In December 2006, the authorities recognized that he was not worth holding, and Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, the commander of the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo, recommended him for transfer out of the prison in a document that was classified, and not made publicly available until April 2011, when it was released by the campaigning group WikiLeaks.
However, Latif was not released, and nor did his ordeal come to an end. In August 2008, one of his attorneys, Mark Falkoff [...] pointed out that his client was showing signs of schizophrenia, and had also lost a considerable amount of weight — from 145 to 107 pounds — for unexplained reasons, as he was not, at the time, on a hunger strike, although at one point earlier in his imprisonment his weight had dropped to just under 90 pounds. Falkoff had, however, been told by Latif that he had been prevented from having a blanket and a mattress in his cell, even though he was in a very poor state, and he described his client as being “near death.”
Another of Latif’s attorneys, David Remes, explained how his client had tried to commit suicide on several occasions, and, on a visit in May 2009, had tried to do so while Remes was present. He “chipped off a piece of the stiff veneer on the underside of our conference table and used it to saw into a vein in his left wrist [...]”
Amnesty International, which took up his case, also noted that he had been “held in solitary confinement in the psychiatric ward at Guantánamo since at least November 2008,” and that he told his lawyers that “when he is awake he sees ghosts in the darkness, hears frightening voices and suffers from nightmares when he is asleep.” He also suffered from “a number of physical health problems, including a fractured cheekbone, a shattered eardrum, blindness in one eye, a dislocated shoulder blade, and a possibly dislocated knee,” as well as “constant throat and stomach pain which [made] it difficult for him to eat,” but when he responded to his neglect by embarking on hunger strikes, the authorities strapped him in a restraint chair and force-fed him up to three times a day through a tube pushed up his nose into his stomach.
In May 2010, just before he won the habeas petition that was subsequently dismissed by the D.C. Circuit Court, Latif was held in isolation in Camp 5 [...] he was regularly subjected to violent assaults by the Immediate Response Force (IRF), a group of guards who punish even the most minor transgressions with disproportionate violence.
“IRF teams enter my cell on [a] regular basis,” he wrote. “They throw me and drag me on the floor. [T]wo days before writing this letter [the IRF team] strangled me and pressed hard behind my ears … I lost consciousness for more than an hour.” He added that the circumstances in which he was living “makes death more desirable than living … I find no taste for life, sleep or rest.” (Andy Worthington)
reminds me of what jean améry has written about being tortured. this helplessness, this isolation, this sense of being lost to the world, and relentless, unending pain must have been what adnan felt for years…
As he hung from a hook in a Gestapo prison, Améry learned some quick lessons. “The first blow brings home to the prisoner that he is helpless, and thus it already contains in the bud everything that is to come,” he would later write. This helplessness is social more than physical, and bespeaks isolation and abandonment more than pain. The prisoner knows that the world has forsaken him—rescue, aid, solace are impossible—and that he is, therefore, no longer part of the world, even if he is not yet dead. Améry learned, too, that all those aspects of his character that he had considered central and unique would quickly vanish, leaving only one irrefutable reality: the body in pain. “The tortured person never ceases to be amazed that all those things one may… call his soul, or his mind, or his consciousness, or his identity, are destroyed when there is that cracking and splintering in the shoulder joints… Only through torture did he learn that a living person can be transformed so thoroughly into flesh.” The destruction of the autonomous self—a destruction that, if he survives, will continue to haunt the victim—makes torture “the most horrible event a human being can retain within himself.”