Thursday, February 28, 2019
Former Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr, 32, brought a case before the Alberta youth court on 26 February 2019, seeking to have his bail conditions, which impose restrictions on his everyday life, lifted. Khadr was convicted at Guantánamo in 2010 in a secret plea deal on the charge of allegedly murdering a US serviceman when he was 15 in Afghanistan. Returned to Canada in 2012 to serve the rest of his sentence there, he was released from a maximum security prison by a youth court in 2015 on the basis of a number of bail restrictions, many of which have been relaxed over the past few years but which still require him to seek permission to travel in Canada and deprive him of a passport, among other things. Effectively, had he remained in jail, Khadr’s sentence would have expired over 5 months ago. Although Canada apologised to Khadr and reached an out-of-court settlement with him over its failure to protect his human rights, he remains subject, in Canada, to a ruling made by the highly controversial Guantánamo military tribunal, with evidence obtained from torture used to try him. Khadr asked the court to order his release and declare his sentence to have expired by having the judge place him under conditional supervision for one day and then declare his sentence served. The judge hearing the case said she will rule on the case in March. According to his lawyer, Nate Whitling: “The bail order does interrupt the ticking of the clock but practically speaking, the guy has served his sentence now.” and, in the meantime, his appeal in the US, pending which he was released on bail, has not advanced “even an inch”.
A second case has been brought against Lithuania at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by a Guantánamo prisoner, Saudi Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, who is currently facing trial with four other men suspected of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York. The Lithuanian government has decided to challenge the case, and consistently denies the existence of any CIA torture prisons in its territory. Concerning Al-Hawsawi, it claims: “We have no tangible or reasonable evidence whatsoever that the person could have been in Lithuania”, and that “the suspected building in Antaviliai, in the outskirts of Vilnius, had been "an intelligence support center" and that the suspected planes had transported communication equipment rather than people to Lithuania”, even though Lithuania previously lost a case at the court whereby it was fined for having colluded in CIA torture through running a torture facility. It is currently appealing that judgment made last year.
Lawyers and NGOs acting for Al-Hawsawi previously urged the Lithuanian government to include him in its investigation into secret CIA torture prisons in the country, ongoing since 2015. However, refusal by the district court in Lithuania in 2016 to grant him the victim status that would allow his inclusion in the investigation led lawyers to take the case to the Strasbourg Court.
According to the NGO Redress: “Mr. al-Hawsawi was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and was held in secret detention in the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation programme until September 2006.
During this time he was severely tortured and now suffers from a number of serious medical conditions, including rectal prolapse, anal fissures, and Hepatitis C, a condition he did not have previously.
The United States Senate Torture Report – the most comprehensive examination of the CIA’s Torture programme – indicates that while Mr. al-Hawsawi was held in Lithuania he required emergency medical care, which was delayed because he was denied access to a local hospital.
Throughout his three and a half years’ secret detention– including the time he was detained in Lithuania – Mr. al-Hawsawi was not allowed access to a lawyer or to independent monitors (such as the International Committee of the Red Cross).
He was tortured and detained outside the protection of the law in conditions that amounted to enforced disappearance.”
Lawyers for fellow defendant in the September 2001 case, Ammar Al-Baluchi, have claimed that the makers of the film Zero Dark Thirty were given detailed information about his torture in a secret CIA prison, information that has been denied to his lawyers. According to his lawyers, “they were stunned to see the portrayal of his torture, including beatings, suspension from manacles and waterboarding, in the Oscar-winning 2012 film. The lawyers discovered that in the CIA’s year-long cooperation with the film-makers, the agency shared details of Baluchi’s torture at a secret prison, or black site, which they had been told were too secret to be divulged.”
This disclosure was made as part of a new film by The Guardian on the Guantánamo military tribunals: https://www.theguardian.com/law/video/2019/feb/22/the-trial-inside-guantanamo-with-911-suspect-ammar-al-baluchi-video
On 27 February, lawyers for Al-Baluchi brought a case before the federal courts to have the death penalty aspect of the case against him at Guantanamo removed, on the basis of the torture he has suffered and that almost seven years after the charges were brought against him (and four others), no trial date has been set. If successful, the case could see his trial before the military commission at a later stage invalidated.
LGC Activities:The February Shut Guantánamo! demo took place on 7 February. The March demonstration will be at 12-2pm on Thursday 7 March outside the US Embassy, 33 Nine Elms Lane, SW11 7US. Further details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/287164098647551/
Thursday, January 31, 2019
The new judge in the Abd Al Nashiri capital case, in which he is accused of masterminding an attack on a US naval vessel in the Gulf of Aden in 2000, is leaving the case to become an immigration judge. As the case is currently awaiting rulings from other higher courts on various issues, Air Force Col. Shelley Schools has not yet presided the case and may never do so. She is reported to have applied to become an immigration judge in April 2018, 4 months before she was assigned to Al Nashiri’s case, and to have accepted the post which will start in the summer.
The previous judge, Air Force Col. Vance Spath, left for retirement and has since become an immigration judge too. On 22 January, District of Columbia Court of Appeals heard arguments from Al Nashiri’s lawyer on whether he should have disclosed that he had been seeking this job for almost three years. They argued that all rulings he made during that period should be nullified, due to “an undisclosed conflict of interest, noting that for years, he was angling for an appointment with the Justice Department while advancing Nashiri’s case on terms favorable to the prosecution team.” Michel Paradis, a lawyer representing Al Nashiri said “that Spath had used one of his rulings favorable to the Justice Department in Nashiri’s case as a writing sample for his application.” https://theintercept.com/2019/01/23/guantanamo-military-commision-abd-rahim-nashiri/
A new judge in the case will the fourth to handle the pre-trial proceedings in this case which are currently halted.
Pre-trial hearings have continued in other cases at Guantánamo nonetheless. On Monday 7 January, pre-trial hearings started in the case of Abd al Hadi Al-Iraqi. The main open discussion related to his health and ability to attend hearings. Since September 2017, he has had 5 operations to his spine and various other hearings have been halted due to the pain he finds himself in. A neurosurgeon was called to the court to testify on his ability to travel to the courtroom. The hearings on Wednesday and Thursday were held in closed court.
By the end of the week it was decided that instead of adjourning or throwing out the case before the military tribunal, which is based on torture and other inadmissible evidence, and is a case in which the defendant claims they do not even have his correct name, the prosecutor announced that a hospital bed could be brought into the courtroom compound so that Al-Iraqi can watch proceedings from the bed in an adjacent room with a video feed and phone line to the court. The special cell containing this will arrive at Guantánamo in March. It will be the first time that a prisoner spends the night in the court compound.
A trial date has been set in his case, for 19 February 2020. The date was set after the lead prosecutor said that by March 2019 the facilities for Al-Iraqi to stay at the courthouse during hearings would be ready. The next pre-trial hearings in his case are set for 4-8 March.
Pre-trial hearings resumed briefly in the case of five men accused of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York. The hearing started off disruptively on Monday 28 January with the defendants claiming they could answer the judge’s questions as they questioned his authority to preside the case. Their lawyers, on the other hand, asked for the hearing to be delayed so that the government could provide “more information about the FBI’s recent interrogation of a former paralegal from one of the defense teams. Lawyers said they needed the details to determine if they were operating under a conflict of interest and assailed what they said was another attempt by the government to disrupt their work through criminal investigations, intrusions and harassment.” Given previous harassment and surveillance by the government of defence lawyers in the case going back several years, one of the lawyers, James Harrington, explained that “There’s a real basis for our paranoia”. Stating that he had received information that none of the lawyers were being investigated, Judge Marine Col. Keith Parrella decided to continue.
More on the questioning of the paralegal: https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/article225208845.html
However, on Tuesday, the hearing ended suddenly when the judge had a health emergency: he had a detached retina and had to be flown to Miami for emergency surgery. There was a delay in his departure concerning which his wife claimed on social media that military insurance refused to transport him and the military claimed there was no aircraft available. The next hearings are due to be held in late March.
The LGC held its first monthly Shut Guantánamo! demos outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms on Thursday 3 January. The February demonstration will be at 12-2pm on Thursday 7 February outside the US Embassy, 33 Nine Elms Lane, SW11 7US. Further details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/376841939785822/
On Friday 11 January, the 17th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay opening, activists from the London Guantánamo joined an event organised by the Guantánamo Justice Campaign in Trafalgar Square to mark the anniversary. The very visual event attracted passers-by, many of whom stopped to talk and express their solidarity. Many were not aware that it is still open and some were under the impression that the prisoners are convicted terrorists, whereas with two exceptions, none of the prisoners have been convicted and over half face no charges or trial after 17 years.