Wednesday, January 31, 2018

LGC Newsletter – January 2018

Guantánamo Bay
Pre-trial hearings in a number of cases continued at Guantánamo as it entered its 17th year of operation, and with 41 prisoners remaining. In the case of Abd Al Hadi Al Iraqi, a closed national security session, to discuss secret evidence, was held in a conference room near the Pentagon and not at Guantánamo. The hearing took place over two days in Alexandria, Virginia, without the prisoner or the public being allowed to attend or watch, and was held to discuss the evidence from a possible cross-examination of Saudi prisoner Ahmed Al-Darbi, who gave testimony against him last year as part of his plea deal which could see him released. The move is a first, as such secret sessions are usually held at Guantánamo and alongside ongoing hearings.
Al Iraqi is currently recovering from surgery on his back and his next two-week hearing is scheduled from 29 January.

Pre-trial hearings resumed in the case of the five men accused of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York. Lawyers for the defendants asked for the hearing to be suspended immediately as meetings in December between military lawyers and their clients were cancelled. One was allowed only 4 hours of meetings out of a scheduled 16 as the Defence Secretary Jim Mattis was visiting at the same time, and others were not allowed to meet clients at all.
In addition, when asked if they understood that they could waive attendance of the 7-day hearing, the defendants told the judge that they had been subject to intrusive groin searches prior to being allowed to enter the courtroom. The defendants called it “sexual harassment”. One defendant asked if he could leave the court immediately and was allowed to. The judge was told that 8 January was the date chosen “to implement an approved Standard Operating Procedure that permits physical groin searches”. Such searches have been carried out in the past.
As a result of these intrusive searches, two of the prisoners did not attend the hearing on Wednesday when an army major testified to the court that following the protest by the prisoners earlier in the week, the prison had stopped doing this. Only one prisoner attended this hearing. Other issues considered during the week-long hearings included the defence trying to retrieve government laptops issued to the prisoners to help them prepare for their hearings. The prosecution demanded that they are never given back to the prisoners.
In a later hearing, lawyers for the 5 defendants stated that their essential duty to their clients is compromised by “a prohibition against fully investigating the clandestine CIA prison network where the alleged terrorists were tortured.” Without knowing what actually happened to their clients, and being able to back that up with evidence, it is almost impossible for them to challenge the government’s narrative, particularly on the issue of torture. The prosecution claims that allowing defence lawyers to investigate could compromise the case.
In a separate ruling in the same case, on 19  January, the judge in the case, Army Col. James L. Pohl, ruled that he and the prosecution “did nothing wrong in authorizing the destruction of a former CIA “Black Site” prison without advance notice to defense attorneys.” Although the country the prison was located in is unspecified, “from 2002 to 2006, agents kept their captives naked, or in diapers, waterboarded some, rectally abused others, and used cramped confinement boxes and hot and cold temperatures to break the men in their pursuit of al-Qaida secrets — techniques that the Senate Torture Report mostly described as ineffective.” Defence lawyers have asked for him to stand down and for the prosecutors to be removed.

In the ongoing pre-trial hearing of Abd Al-Nashiri, his civilian lawyers who quit the case last year over an ethical conflict again refused to attend court; this was the third time that Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears refused to either attend the war court at Guantánamo or the Military Commissions headquarters in Virginia. Al-Nashiri was instead accompanied by a single defence lawyer, Navy Lieutenant Alaric Piette, who has no death penalty trial experience. As a result, a week-long hearing concluded much faster, and the judge told his sole lawyer that he should seek “self-help” and attend training to learn how to deal with capital cases where the death penalty may be applied.
On 6 January, the two-year period during which two former Yemeni prisoners, who cannot return to their country due to the war there, were authorised to stay in Ghana expired. The Ghanaian government has acknowledged that the two men were never accused of links to any terror groups and that they have caused no problems since their entry to the country, as well as it having strengthened ties with the US government through the agreement made to accommodate them.
The Ghanaian government presented a report to parliament stating that the two men, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, should be allowed to stay as they pose no threat. The Ghanaian parliament is due to make a decision on the men remaining there. An August 2017 Supreme Court ruling stated that their stay in Ghana without parliamentary approval is unconstitutional.
Governmental financial assistance for 6 men who were sent to Uruguay in 2014 ends in January 2018. A two-year agreement made by the Uruguayan government and the men saw them paid a meagre stipend and rent for their accommodation until they find work. Finding steady work has proved difficult in the country where costs are high, they do not speak Spanish and there is much media scrutiny of their lives. Negotiations are under way and due to conclude by the end of January to decide whether the support provided will be extended for another year.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Reprieve and others used the 16th anniversary of Guantánamo’s open on 11 January as an opportunity to file a collective case on behalf of 11 remaining prisoners to challenge their continued detention at Guantánamo on the basis that Donald Trump’s statement against releasing anyone from Guantánamo, regardless of their circumstances, “is arbitrary and unlawful and amounts to “perpetual detention for detention’s sake.”” The CCR stated: “The filing argues that continued detention is unconstitutional because any legitimate rationale for initially detaining these men has long since expired; detention now, 16 years into Guantánamo’s operation, is based only on Trump’s raw antipathy towards Guantánamo prisoners – all foreign-born Muslim men – and Muslims more broadly. CCR notes that Donald Trump’s proclamation that he will not release any detainees during his administration reverses the approach and policies of both President Bush and President Obama, who collectively released nearly 750 men. Trump’s blanket policy guarantees three, or even seven, more years of imprisonment unless the courts intervene now.”
As a result of this challenge, a week later, on 18 January, a court order the federal government to provide information on its Guantánamo policy. In response, the CCR stated: “We welcome the court’s prompt response to our collective action, and its order to the administration to state its plan and intentions for the prisoners being held without charge, including those previously approved for transfer by the government. However the Justice Department may respond in court, the administration’s actions and stated intentions have already spoken loudly. President Trump has declared that no detainee should be transferred from the prison. Accordingly, there has been no forward movement on Guantanamo for a full year. Men approved for transfer are still languishing with no prospect of release. Offices of special envoys tasked with negotiating transfers with foreign governments are officially or effectively defunct. And the Periodic Review Boards, while continuing in form, are devoid of real substance.    
"As we’ve said before, context also matters. The President has demonstrated, through vulgar words and deeds, his animus toward Muslims and non-white foreigners. With respect to suspects of terrorism in particular, he has gone so far as to call for overt torture.  It is plain to us that Trump has no intention of moving any detainee out of Guantanamo, and won’t, without the intervention of the court. The only acceptable position at this point is for the prison to close and for the men who remain detained to be charged or released.”
In addition, NGO Muslim Advocates filed an amicus brief to join the action along with 13 other organisations: Eight constitutional law professors have taken similar action:

LGC Activities:
Two events took place in London on 11 January to mark the 16th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay. At 12-3pm, the Guantánamo Justice Campaign led a vigil in Trafalgar Square that helped to raise awareness with the public of the ongoing situation, particularly as no mention had been made of the anniversary at all in the UK press.
At 6-8pm on the same evening, the London Guantánamo Campaign held a candlelight vigil outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square with activists standing in solidarity with the remaining prisoners by holding up images of the 41 men who remain. This was the LGC’s last protest outside the Grosvenor Square site after 12 years of regular protest. The US Embassy moved to its new Nine Elms location on 16 January.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

11 January 2018: Candlelight Vigil to Mark 16 Years of Guantánamo
Please bring candles and banners with your messages to President Trump to our vigil to mark the 16th anniversary of Guantánamo, and possibly our last large demonstration outside the iconic Grosvenor Square building - solidarity and protest!

MEDIA RELEASE: London Guantánamo Campaign to Mark Guantánamo 16th Anniversary with US Embassy Candlelight Vigil, Thursday 11 January 2018, 6-8pm

For immediate release: Thursday 11 January 2018
The London Guantánamo Campaign [1] and human rights activists will mark the sixteenth anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp with a candlelight vigil [2] outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, at 6-8pm on Thursday 11 January 2018.

As part of this solidarity action, activists will hold up images of the 41 men who remain at Guantánamo Bay, largely without charge, trial or the prospect of release [3]. 

Aisha Maniar, organiser from the London Guantánamo Campaign, says, "While it is a positive development that Donald Trump has not gone through with his pre-election threat to load up Guantánamo with “bad dudes” [4], far less attention has been paid to the fact that many of Trump’s more noxious policies have been facilitated by the actions of previous presidents. This includes sixteen years of the continued operation of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp and the "war on terror" more broadly.

“In addition, the rights violating practices surrounding Guantanamo are now a model for the detention and incarceration polices of the US and other states. Plans to expand immigration detention for undocumented migrants and the deplorable conditions in such facilities [5] are connected to Guantánamo’s origins and existence, as Trump’s initial travel ban included only Iran in addition to the states in which the resettlement of Guantánamo prisoners [6] was already prohibited.

“Elsewhere, the fact that none of the remaining prisoners were captured on the battlefield by the US military and that eighty-six percent were sold into US custody by Afghan militias and the Pakistani military for cash bounties [7] finds its contemporary resonance in the current brutal slave trade in migrants in Libya. It is the failure of the international community, and not just of the US, to act to close Guantánamo that has helped to legitimise this status quo.

“With the US Embassy due to move imminently to new premises in south London, after over a decade of sustained and continuous protest against Guantánamo at this famous site, it is likely to be our last large protest there. It is a shame that the US has been able to build and transfer its British embassy faster than it is able to close Guantánamo.”



1. The London Guantánamo Campaign was set up in 2006 and campaigns for justice for all prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, for the closure of this and other secret prisons, and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition.

This event will be preceded by another anniversary vigil in Trafalgar Square at 12-3pm organised by the Guantanamo Justice Campaign

6. Originally Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Iran and Somalia; Iraq and Sudan were later removed from the list.