Within the last week 9/11 defendant Ammar al Baluchi learned that his father died in Kuwait. The cause of death is unknown. Emergency motions filed by his attorney, James G. Connell III, sought to allow Mr. al Baluchi to communicate with his mother and, if he wanted, to waive his presence at Monday’s military commission hearings since he was “in mourning.” Army Col. James L. Pohl, the chief judge of the military commissions, denied both requests.

On Monday the judge and attorneys engaged in a lengthy conversation about the defendants’ right to voluntarily waive their presence during the hearings. Ultimately the judge ruled in favor of the defense, and today, Mr. al Baluchi exercised his right to not attend the hearings. In Monday’s press conference Mr. Connell explained, “I know how I would feel if I had just learned that my father had died, and I look at him as a human being and treated him in the way I would want to be treated.”

I’m not sure if a “high-value” detainee has ever been allowed communication with a family member, but why not allow it under these circumstances? Mr. Connell convincingly invoked the Golden Rule. Mr. al Baluchi is charged with the most serious offense, but he is still a human being. If I were in his situation, how would I want to be treated? This is a lost opportunity for the government to show its commitment to humane treatment for those accused of even the worst crimes.