Tuesday, August 31, 2021

LGC Newsletter – August 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

After 18 years of US detention, first in secret CIA torture facilities and then at Guantánamo, an Indonesian and two Malaysian prisoners accused of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings had an arraignment hearing on 30 August, at which they were to be formally informed of the charges against them. They face eight and nine charges respectively which include conspiracy, attempted murder, murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, terrorism, destruction of property, and attacking civilians and civilian objects. The hearing which was due to take place in early 2021 was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Ahead of the hearing, the case acquired a new judge and Indonesian prisoner Hambali’s defence lawyer for the past 4 years, Major James Valentine, retired from the US Marines and the case. In spite of the extra time to organise the hearing, it was plagued by problems with interpreters which led to it being delayed on the first day.



Ahead of the resumption of pre-trial hearings in the case of five men accused of involvement in terrorist attacks in New York City in September 2001 next month, the fourth judge in the case, which has yet to have a trial date set 20 years after the events took place, has been appointed. Lt. Col. Matthew McColl has been appointed to the case even though he only qualified to hear death penalty cases in July and has served as a military judge for two years.  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/20/us/politics/military-judge-sept-11-trial.html

In early August, defence lawyers for the five defendants filed a motion to have the hearing set back in view of the Covid-19 restrictions and the lack of a judge in the case, among other matters. https://int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/ae-815-k-ksm-mtr-ae-815-j-scheduling-ord/a9e136e668f86605/full.pdf The new judge, however, has approved the two-week hearing set to start 6 September.


Extraordinary Rendition

Pakistani neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who “disappeared” with her 3 young children in Pakistan in 2003 and reappeared in US custody in Afghanistan several years, currently serving an 86-year sentence in the US, is reported to have been injured after being attacked by an inmate at the maximum security prison she is being held at in Texas. A cup filled with scalding liquid was thrown in her face injuring her and leaving her in serious pain; she had to be removed from her cell in a wheelchair. During her detention, Dr Siddiqui has had limited access to her family and her lawyers.



LGC Activities

The September monthly Shut Guantánamo! protest is on Thursday 2nd September at 12-2pm outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms (Nine Elms Lane, SW11 7US, nearest underground: Vauxhall).  https://www.facebook.com/events/366996018133518/ If you require more details about this event, please email us at london.gtmo [at] gmail.com

Friday, July 30, 2021

LGC Newsletter – July 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

The chief prosecutor in the case of five men accused of involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York City has announced his surprise retirement. Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, who has held the position for over a decade, had previously delayed his retirement and was due to remain in the position until 2023. His retirement makes a trial in the case “appear increasingly unlikely.” A message sent to the families of the victims of the attacks stated that he was stepping down "in the best interests of the ongoing cases." His retirement is effective as of 30 September.



Moroccan prisoner Abdullatif Nasser is the first prisoner to be transferred from Guantánamo by the Biden administration. He was repatriated to Morocco where he was reunited with his family in time for the Eid festival on 20 July. Nasser was cleared for release in July 2016. There are currently 39 prisoners held at Guantánamo, 10 of whom are cleared for release.



Pre-trial hearings have now resumed at Guantánamo Bay following a delay of over 18 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with one held in the case of Nashwan Al-Tamir (Abdul Hadi Al-Iraq), on 13-14 July. It consisted mainly of questions put to the new judge in the case and concerning the defendant’s ability to participate in the proceedings. For details of the proceedings, please see:


On 27 July, a brief hearing was held in the case of Majid Khan, who has been awaiting sentencing for almost a decade. In this brief hearing, the prosecution and defence also put questions to the new judge concerning his ability to deal with the case but did not object to his appointment.



UN Special Rapporteurs raised further concerns this month over the safety of men released by the Obama administration to the UAE under a secret agreement. Concerns were raised about the potential forced repatriation to Russia of Ravil Mingazov, who along with 18 Yemenis, has essentially been detained with limited access to family, lawyers and medical care since arriving in the UAE. The Russian authorities informed Mingazov’s family of his potential repatriation. Other Russian prisoners sent home have been subject to further persecution including torture, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killing.


While the Special Rapporteurs in their statement “welcome[d] the [UAE] Government’s decision not to repatriate these [18] Yemeni nationals” they had raised concerns about in October 2020, it has now been reported, according to their families and the Yemeni government, that 6 of these men were returned to Yemen in late July. After transfer from Guantánamo to the UAE, the men remained in detention. Concerns have been raised about the risk to the men in being returned to an active war zone. The men have yet to be released to their families, but the Yemeni authorities said they will continue to monitor them after release, which is more likely a request of the US than the UAE. The UAE is not the first state to repatriate former prisoners after having accepted them. In 2018, Senegal sent two prisoners back to their native Libya where, upon arrival, they promptly disappeared.



LGC Activities

The August monthly Shut Guantánamo! protest is on Thursday 5th August at 12-2pm outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms (Nine Elms Lane, SW11 7US, nearest underground: Vauxhall).  https://www.facebook.com/events/346316563824547/ If you require more details about this event, please email us at london.gtmo [at] gmail.com

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

LGC Newsletter – June 2021

Guantánamo Bay

A military judge in the case of Abd al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, facing the death penalty at Guantánamo in relation to his alleged connection to the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000, has allowed an application by the prosecution to admit information obtained through torture to be used as evidence in his case. Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr. ruled in May to allow prosecutors to use torture evidence “in a limited capacity at pre-trial hearings”. Evidence obtained through the use of torture is generally illegal and inadmissible in almost all countries around the world. Lawyers for Al-Nashiri are now appealing to the United States Court of Military Commission Review board to reverse this ruling, stating “'No court has ever sanctioned the use of torture in this way”. Such a decision and request by the prosecution and its attempts to withhold evidence from Al-Nashiri’s defence team show desperation in its efforts to prosecute him. Al-Nashiri has successfully prosecuted European states for their role in his torture and rendition. The next pre-trial hearings in his case are scheduled for September.




Two Yemeni prisoners held at Guantánamo since 2004 have been cleared for release by the Periodic Review Board, bringing the number of prisoners held at Guantánamo who can be transferred to 11 out of 40 prisoners. The two men are Abd al-Salam al-Hilah and Sharqawi Abdu Ali al-Hajj.


Three Guantánamo prisoners – Indonesian Hambali and Malaysians Mohammed Nazir bin Lep and Mohammed Farik bin Amin – who all arrived at Guantánamo in 2006 following years of detention in secret CIA torture facilities around the world will be arraigned on 30 August on charges of involvement in the Bali bombing of 2002 and a bombing in Jakarta in 2003, formally starting proceedings in the case which was reportedly postponed due to coronavirus. All are charged with “conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, terrorism, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, and destruction of property” and the two Malaysians face an additional charge of “accessory after the fact”. The case does not carry the death penalty. In spite of US detention for 18 years and at Guantánamo for 15 years, this will be the first time they are formally charged. The evidence obtained in their cases was obtained through torture in secret CIA torture facilities.



Extraordinary Rendition

The US Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by US military contractor CACI International Inc. against a 2019 judgment that ruled that the company was not immune from prosecution as a government contractor. This means that a 2008 case brought by three Iraqi men against the company for directing their torture at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq is closer to going ahead: “The three plaintiffs - Suhail Al Shimari, Salah Al-Ejaili and As'ad Al-Zuba'e - are Iraqi civilians who said they were detained at Abu Ghraib and eventually released without charge. CACI has called the lawsuit baseless”. The case is brought under the Alien Tort Statute of 1789.




LGC Activities

The LGC joined the G7 protest outside Downing Street on 12 June and the People’s Assembly protest on 26 June where we handed out leaflets and raised awareness about the continuing situation at Guantánamo Bay, where 40 prisoners remain almost 20 years on.

The LGC is also resuming its physical presence outside the US Embassy London with our regular Shut Guantánamo! protests (which we have held since 2007) on Thursday 1st July at 12-2pm outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms (Nine Elms Lane, SW11 7US, nearest underground: Vauxhall). We are usually found away from the main road in the pedestrianised area outside the embassy and near the housing development opposite it; please walk around the embassy to find us. We can provide orange jumpsuits and banners but you are welcome to bring your own. For more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/379910286772908


Tuesday, June 01, 2021

LGC Newsletter – May 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

Pakistani prisoner, Majid Khan, who remains at Guantánamo years after being convicted under a secret plea deal based on torture evidence, continues to await his final sentence. Ahead of his latest scheduled sentencing hearing, his defence team and the military commission convening authority have reached an agreement to prevent CIA officers from testifying about his torture during the proceeding, which his defence sought to help mitigate his sentence. In return for protecting and hiding the CIA’s crimes against humanity, “The jury will be instructed to impose a sentence of 25 to 40 years; but under the new agreement the judge will reduce it to 11 to 14 years (including time served). The military judge, Army Colonel Douglas K. Watkins, already lopped off an additional year because of prosecutorial misconduct. The result is that Mr. Khan could be released as early as next year, depending on the extent of his cooperation.” Although this is a positive outcome for Khan, the agreement means that a landmark court decision allowing evidence of his torture to be used in his defence now has to be set aside: “Apparently, the government thinks it is of the utmost importance not just to bury evidence of CIA torture, but to ensure a decision that could have allowed other detainees to expose their abuse is erased from the books.”

At the same time, in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the military judge in his case allowed prosecutors “to introduce a document containing statements that the defense said were “obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” (CIDT). Judge Acosta’s decision found that the law barring such statements applies only to evidence at trial, not to their use in interlocutory matters.”

More worryingly over the past month, the trial chamber at the International Criminal Court in The Hague has admitted statements as evidence the accused made while being allegedly subject to torture.



Three more prisoners have been cleared for release by the periodic review board, bringing the total number of prisoners cleared to 9, almost a quarter of the total prisoner population. One man has been cleared for over a decade. The latest prisoners to be cleared for release are the oldest prisoner, Pakistani Saifullah Paracha, Yemeni Uthman Abd Rahim Uthman and Pakistani Abdul Rabbani. Being cleared for release is not the same as being released, and following two decades of arbitrary detention for each of these men, the US must ensure that they are released under conditions where their safety and human rights are ensured and they are not subject to further US surveillance or further persecution.


Friday, April 30, 2021

LGC Newsletter – April 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

Under plans devised by the Trump administration, the US military has closed the secretive Camp 7 at Guantánamo Bay that once housed alleged high-value prisoners who were not allowed to have contact with the outside world. The camp was dilapidated and suffered frequent power cuts; rather than renovate it, it was decided that it should close inside. All of the remaining 40 prisoners are now housed in camps 5 and 6.



Iraqi prisoner Nashwan Al-Tamir lost a case before a federal appeals court to have the charges against him dismissed and the judge presiding over his case disqualified due to a conflict of interest. One of the last prisoners to arrive at Guantánamo following capture in 2006 and torture at CIA black sites, he was charged in 2014 with terrorist offences and faces a life sentence. The judge in his case presided over it while seeking employment elsewhere, a conflict of interest, for which he did not recuse himself. Instead the US government has offered to have the court decisions made reheard by another judge which the appeal court agreed with and thus his claims were denied.



President Biden has announced that he plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, although not US involvement, by 11 September this year. Whether or not his government is able to achieve this remains to be seen and will have an impact on the prisoners at Guantánamo, given that the ongoing war there is the rationale for keeping Guantánamo open.


Lawyers for some prisoners have used this as a basis for new legal action to challenge their detention https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/21/us/politics/afghanistan-war-guantanamo-prison.html

However, in ongoing similar legal proceedings started under previous presidents, lawyers for the Biden administration, in the case of Ali v Biden, decided to broadly uphold the position of the Trump administration that Guantánamo prisoners should not have full due process rights, and thus the ability to challenge their detention in court meaningfully.


It should also be recalled that in 2014, former President Obama also called for US troops to be removed from Afghanistan, yet seven years on, they remain there and Guantánamo is still open.


At least 32 of the remaining 40 Guantánamo prisoners are reported to have been vaccinated against Covid-19.



The US Supreme Court has decided to hear a petition by Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah to discover the identities of agents who tortured him while in secret CIA detention in Poland as part of an ongoing investigation there. His lawyers also want to question the architects of the CIA’s torture programme, former contractors James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The US government refuses to disclose this information claiming it falls under state secrets. The case will not be heard until October at least.


His lawyers have also said that they have filed a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention against the US and 6 other states concerning his ongoing detention without charge or trial. His lawyers hope that the complaint will find that the US is obliged to release him, even though the CIA has previously said that he will never be released.


Abu Zubaydah currently also has a claim against the UK government for disclosure of what it knew about his torture and abuse by the CIA in the UK courts.


Extraordinary Rendition

In early April, the Biden administration removed sanctions on staff of the International Criminal Court (ICC) imposed by his predecessor Trump, imposing visa restrictions and freezing their assets in the US. However, the Biden administration disagrees with the court’s against the US and Israel. In a statement upon lifting the sanction, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We continue to disagree strongly with the ICC's actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations. We maintain our longstanding objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel. We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions.”


The UK government’s controversial Overseas Operations Bill 2021 has received royal assent and will soon become law. However, this only happened after the government dropped clauses that would shield UK military personnel from prosecution against involvement in war crimes involving torture, genocide or crimes against humanity. More recently it has had to back down on a blanket ban on prosecutions for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government argued but failed to prove that it needed to protect military personnel against “vexatious claims”. While many claims have been made, very few come to trial and even fewer result in prosecutions. The law will prevent civil claims being brought after 6 years in the context of foreign wars.


Thursday, April 01, 2021

LGC Newsletter – March 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

Former Guantánamo prisoner Lotfi Benali died in Mauritania on 9 March 2021. A Tunisian national, he was 55 and had been suffering from a long-term illness. He spent more than 13 years at Guantánamo without charge or trial. He was then sent by the Obama administration to Kazakhstan as Tunisia refused his repatriation. However, Kazakhstan refused to allow him to remain there permanently and he later moved to Mauritania which agreed to allow this Guantánamo refugee to live there. He was suffering from multiple physical and mental health problems at the time of his death, some that preceded his capture by the US and some that he acquired during US imprisonment without charge or trial for over a decade.

A 2016 interview with The Guardian after his arrival in Kazakhstan: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/30/worse-than-guantanamo-ex-prisoner-struggles-with-new-life-in-kazakhstan


Extraordinary Rendition

Human rights NGO Redress has filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal in relation to “evidence to suggest that UK intelligence agencies encouraged, facilitated, or conspired with US authorities in the torture and ill-treatment” of Guantánamo prisoner Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, a Saudi national who was kidnapped and tortured in secret CIA detention for over three years before arriving at Guantánamo Bay, where he is one of five defendants in the capital case related to the September 2001 attacks in New York City. The complaint has been made against the potential involvement of various government agencies, “namely the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the Defence Intelligence, Ministry of Defence (MoD)”. The NGO is seeking documents and information about their involvement and complicity in his torture. Hawsawi has already successfully brought a case against Lithuania at the European Court of Human Rights concerning its involvement in his torture when he was illegally detained there.




Sunday, February 28, 2021

LGC Newsletter – February 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

Former Sudanese prisoner, Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris, who arrived at Guantánamo on the day it was opened on 11 January 2002, has died aged 60 in Sudan. Suspected of having worked as a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden, he was never charged at Guantánamo and was released in 2013. A lawyer has attributed his death “to medical complications he had from Guantánamo”. The exact cause of death is unknown but he is known to have been in ill-health and another former Sudanese prisoner has said that he was tortured at Guantánamo. His health deteriorated at Guantánamo and he suffered mental health problems while there and after his release.


US president Joe Biden has launched a formal review into the current situation at Guantánamo and has said that he intends to close the facility, where 40 prisoners remain, before the end of his term. An executive action to this end may be signed in the coming weeks or months, although it is not a priority of the current administration and there are no details of what the current US government plans to do.


In this response to this, a group of UN human rights experts have called on the US government to “address ongoing violations being committed against the 40 or so inmates still incarcerated there” and to investigate allegations of torture and other human rights abuses.