Military faults guards in suicide by Guantánamo captive

Miami HeraldJune 28, 2013 

A U.S. military investigation found Guantánamo troops didn’t follow their own rules, allowing a captive to take a fatal overdose of an anti-psychotic drug days after he was moved into a disciplinary cell from the detention center’s psychiatric ward.

A 79-page report, released Friday under the Freedom of Information Act, showed the “standard operating procedures,” or SOP, governing U.S. Army Military Police required soldiers to regularly check on captives kept in solitary cells at Camp 5, Guantánamo’s maximum-security lockup.

Troops didn’t do it for at least two shift changes before Yemeni captive Adnan Latif was discovered dead on the floor of his Camp 5 cell at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba on Sept. 8, 2012.

Rather than check on him, Guantánamo troops thought they were letting him sleep for about 15 hours — through a 4 a.m. medication call, the 4:55 a.m. pre-dawn prayer, breakfast, lunch, offers of two hours in a prison recreation yard and the noon call to prayer.

In one instance, a medic stopped by his cell at 4 a.m. to give him a dose of the drug that ultimately killed him. Because Latif didn’t wake up, the medic left the drug on a shelf within reach of his cell door. It was still there when guards realized he was “unresponsive” 10 hours later.

“The failures by the night and day shift line of sight guards to follow the SOP ... may have contributed to the death” of Latif, the report by U.S. Southern Command investigators found. “The failures meant that the guards were not as vigilant as the SOP required in their monitoring” of Latif.

While the report found troops failed to follow their own procedures, no soldier or sailor at the detention center was disciplined or relieved of duty as a result of the investigation, said Army Col. Greg Julian, the Southcom spokesman, on Friday afternoon.

Latif, in his 30s, had been held at the Pentagon prison camps for more than a decade., He had been diagnosed as mentally ill and frequently threatened suicide. He was cleared for release as long ago as 2004 but, because Yemen has an active al-Qaida offshoot, he and dozens of other Yemeni prisoners were kept at Guantánamo.

In death, he spent months in a morgue-like storage facility in Germany while U.S. officials negotiated return of his remains for burial in December — making him the last Guantánamo prisoner released by the Pentagon.

A military autopsy found he overdosed on 24 capsules of an anti-psychotic drug called Invega, according to the report released Friday.

It concluded he had hoarded the fatal dose — a 12-day supply — even as he was taken from the prison hospital to a disciplinary cell and stripped of some belongings to punish him. Misbehavior episodes included throwing his feces at U.S. forces in one instance, and swinging a metal chair at medical forces in another that ended with guards pepper-spraying him.

An autopsy also found the presence of painkillers, sedatives, anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs in his system.

Since the death, Guantánamo’s guard force has been given additional training and updated standard operating procedures, said Julian, the Southcom spokesman. “There are comprehensive programs in place now that ensure everyone receives the appropriate training, and reviews and follows the SOPs.”

David Remes, a lawyer who won Latif’s unlawful detention suit in federal court but saw it overturned on appeal, dismissed the report Friday as “a whitewash.” He noted in particular that investigators failed to interview any of the other prisoners held on the same disciplinary block at the time Latif died.

The military released the internal investigation on the same day the prison reported a rise in its hunger-strike tally. On Friday, Navy medical forces disclosed that 106 captives were hunger strikers, by a Guantánamo definition that calculates meals missed and weight lost. Of the 106, 44 of the captives were designated for twice-daily forced feedings, said Army Lt. Col. Samuel House.

None were getting their tube feedings at the hospital on Friday, he added.

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service

Find a Home

$239,000 Modesto
3 bed, 2 full bath. This beautiful home is located in a ...

Find a Car

Search New Cars