Thursday, August 31, 2017

LGC newsletter - August 2017

Guantánamo Bay
Following the possible expulsion of two Yemeni prisoners resettled in Ghana in early 2016, after the supreme court deemed that the decision to settle them had been made unconstitutionally, the Ghanaian parliament made an agreement that allows the two men to remain in the country at least until 2018, to complete the two years initially agreed. Although the two men were never charged at Guantánamo and were cleared for release in 2009, upon their arrival in the country, Christian groups protested and took their complaint to the courts. If they were not allowed to remain in Ghana, the two men, one of whom got married in June, would have nowhere to go, being unable to return to Yemen as they are refugees due to the war there, and not being allowed to enter the US.

At the beginning of August, convicted Saudi prisoner Ahmed Al-Darbi gave his deposition in private at the military commission, testifying and giving evidence that could be used in the death-penalty trial of Abd Al-Nashiri, who also currently faces military trial. The deposition was heard by the same judge hearing Al-Nashiri’s case.
In a 2014 plea deal, Al Darbi pleaded guilty to getting supplies and helping Al Qaeda militants in exchange for being able to serve the remainder of his 15-year sentence in his native Saudi Arabia. As part of the deal, he agreed to testify against two other prisoners facing trial, whom he claims to have only ever met once in the 1990s. The purpose of Al Darbi giving his testimony now is so that it can be preserved before it is used in the other trials so that he can be released to Saudi Arabia. He is potentially the only prisoner to be released by the Trump administration, which has thus far agreed to honour the deal made by the Obama administration. This is the first known deposition given at Guantánamo over the past 16 years.
Al-Darbi gave a further deposition, this time publicly, in mid-August in the non-death penalty case of Abd Al Hadi Al Iraqi. In this deposition, which aimed to dispel the chance of his testimony being rejected later due to the torture he suffered, he gave details of the various forms of physical, sexual and psychological torture he suffered; describing sexual abuse involving torture interrogator Damian Corsetti, Al Darbi stated, ““He hit me, threw me against the wall, threw garbage on me and pulled me to the floor,” captive Ahmed al Darbi testified. “He was kneeling on my chest, pushing my chest with his knees. After that he exposed ‘little Corsetti’ and put it in my face. You happy?” Al Darbi was tortured at both Bagram and Guantánamo. He provided his testimony which also used video evidence and was asked to confirm the identity of Al Iraqi who claims to have a name other than that given to him by the court.
A further hearing is due in September on Al Darbi’s return to Saudi Arabia.

Pre-trial hearings resumed at the Guantánamo military tribunal this month in the case of five men accused of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York. The hearings were previously suspended indefinitely after the judge said he refused to travel to Guantánamo with other people, including the media, lawyers and family members, attending the hearings. During the hearings, the judge rejected a motion filed in July by the prosecution to start the trial in the case by 2019. The defence also asked the judge to fire the prosecution over the destruction of a CIA prison and the failure to provide full records concerning it, claiming that the site was decommissioned without the knowledge of the defendants’ lawyers, in breach of the rules.

Lawyers for Canadian former prisoner Omar Khadr, who got married recently, were back in court this month. In the first case, proceedings have been moved forward to September in a bid to further relax his bail conditions, which include being able to have unfettered access to his sister Zainab Khadr, who lives outside Canada. Khadr is about to start studying for a 4-year degree in nursing at Red Deer College in Alberta and wants to have the remaining conditions relaxed.
In addition, the wife of the US soldier Omar Khadr is alleged to have killed in Afghanistan in 2002 is seeking to have a claim for damages of $132.1 million enforced against him in Canada. Lawyers for Khadr refused to engage and thus contest the original case brought in Utah which was then won by Tabetha Speer and another soldier Khadr is alleged to have injured by default. Lawyers for Khadr in Canada have asked for the case to be dismissed as the claim is based on false information, including torture evidence used in Khadr’s military tribunal.

Syrian refugee and former Guantánamo prisoner Jihad Dhiab attempted again to leave Uruguay and join his refugee family in Turkey. He travelled to Morocco on a false passport from where he was deported back to Uruguay. Later in August, the Uruguayan media claimed he was trying to enter Brazil via the border, however a government spokesman clarified that he had moved to another town from the capital where it was cheaper to live and to find work. Almost three years after his release, Dhiab is not free with close intrusive scrutiny of his life by the authorities and the media.

Extraordinary rendition
With the judge in the case of two psychologists who worked as contractors for the CIA designing and implementing the extraordinary rendition torture programme ruling in late September the case could go ahead, thereby rejecting their arguments against it, a trial date was set for early September. However, on 17 August, the two defendants reached an out-of-court settlement, the terms of which remain confidential, with the three victims and agreed to pay them $8 million. Under the terms of a joint statement, the two psychologists disclaimed liability for what happened to the victims, including the death of Afghan Gul Rahman through torture: “Drs. Mitchell and Jessen assert that the abuses of Mr. Salim and Mr. Ben Soud occurred without their knowledge or consent and that they were not responsible for those actions.” While the case itself, brought off the back of the 2014 Senate report into CIA torture, is historic in that it was allowed to proceed and is the first time permission was given to sue the CIA for torture claims, the outcome of this case is unclear. No liability was claimed, even if the payment suggests otherwise, and it is not clear how it will affect the ability of other victims to bring future claims. The fact that the defendants are remorseless is evidenced by the fact that one of them, James Mitchell, is engaged in a book tour promoting his book on “enhanced interrogation” (torture) techniques and thus continuing to make money out of the inhumane suffering of others. The question of impunity has yet to be settled.
The court case, however, was delaying testimony on torture techniques by the two defendants and two other CIA operatives involved in torturing prisoners in the case of Abd Al-Nashiri, thereby holding up the pre-trial hearings. No new date has been set for them to testify.

LGC Activities:
The August Shut Guantánamo! monthly demonstration was on 3 August. Our next monthly demonstration is on Thursday 7 September at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, W1A, and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch:

Sunday, July 30, 2017

LGC Newsletter – July 2017

Guantánamo Bay
On 5 July, the Canadian government of Justin Trudeau announced that it had reached a settlement with former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr, 30. It agreed to pay him CAN$10.5 million (£6 million) and give him an apology, ending a lawsuit filed by his lawyers while he was still in Guantánamo. They sued the Canadian government for its complicity in his torture by the US and the breach of his constitutional rights when he was still a teenager. This was backed by a Canadian Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that Canadian government officials had participated in interrogations knowing that Khadr has been tortured, as shown in the documentary film You Don’t like the Truth: Four Days inside Guantánamo 
The payment was expedited ahead of a court case brought in Canada by the widow of the US army sergeant he is alleged to have killed and another soldier who claims Khadr blinded him. Khadr pleaded guilty to the murder in a secret plea bargain in 2010 that would see him leave Guantánamo in 2012; it was his only way out of the prison. The court case aimed to block the payment to Khadr for them to receive the funds, following their award of $134 million (£103 million) in 2015 in a US lawsuit they filed against Khadr. Lawyers for the couple filed the case in the Canadian courts in anticipation that Khadr would settle his previous case with the Canadian government. However, when their case went to court on 13 July, a judge in Toronto dismissed the claim to have Khadr’s assets frozen. The judge called the request “extraordinary”.
The settlement, which is an admission of wrongdoing by the Canadian government, has provoked a storm of controversy among supporters of the right-wing government responsible for the abuse of Omar Khadr’s human rights.
On 7 July, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Guantánamo Bay with his deputy to show support for the continuing existence of the detention camp. He had previously called the facility “a very fine place”. Although it was his first visit to Guantánamo as attorney general, he had visited in 2005 under George Bush’s administration.
The visit had raised expectations that President Trump might send new prisoners to Guantánamo as he has said he would, however on 21 July, rather than send a foreign prisoner to Guantánamo, an Algerian-Irish terrorism suspect was extradited from Spain to face trial in a US federal court, suggesting that Trump may not fill up Guantánamo with new prisoners after all.

Pre-trial hearings at Guantánamo in the case of five men accused of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York have been put on indefinite hold over a dispute between the judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, and military officials about how he travels to Guantánamo Bay. He says that he must be kept separate from other participants in the proceedings, including lawyers, family members and journalists who travel over by plane. He has used a speedboat to travel over to Guantánamo. However, a change of policy in June means no longer has access to the boat. He then ordered the hearings be put on holding until the issue is resolved. The next set of pre-trial hearings are set for late August and it is unclear that they will go ahead.
The judge in the death penalty case of Abd Al-Nashiri, Air Force Colonel Vance Spath, has issued a similar order halting proceedings.
A resolution to the problem is currently being studied.

 An appeal against the conviction of former Sudanese prisoner Ibrahim Al Qosi was halted shortly after it started after a dispute over his legal representation before the military tribunal. Al Qosi was convicted through a plea bargain in 2010 of being a driver for Osama Bin Laden. He was transferred to Sudan in 2012 after release. He has since “disappeared” and media claims have been made that he has joined Al Qaeda based on alleged videos although there is no substantive evidence of this or his whereabouts. The appeal tribunal, the Court of Military Commission Review, sent the case to a lower court to find out whether Al Qosi wants to appeal and to determine whether he has taken up arms against the US. During the hearing, the prosecution argued that only the original lawyer in his case, one of the lawyers who filed the appeal Suzanne Lachelier, was able to represent him and that he may not be aware than an appeal was under way; it argued a unilateral appeal cannot be brought in his defence. Defence lawyers stated that they can bring the case even though they have no contact with Al Qosi. The appeal case against a Guantánamo military tribunal conviction is being heard by the same judge hearing cases before the military tribunal. According to one of the defence lawyers, “The reality of this dilemma is that we’re in new territory. This has never been done.”

On 20 July, former French prisoners Mourad Benchellali and Nizar Sassi filed a request to have former US president George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld summoned to France to be questioned in their case against the arbitrary detention and torture they faced in US hands. Both men were released without charge and returned to France in 2005, where they filed a complaint immediately against the treatment they received. On 19 April, the Paris public prosecutor’s office requested the dismissal of the case as no US official has been prosecuted or brought for questioning. It is up to the judge to decide whether to drop the case. Lawyers for the two men have asked the judge to issue an arrest warrant for Major Geoffrey Miller, who commanded Guantánamo from November 2002 to April 2004.

Former prisoner Syrian refugee Jihad Dhiab was deported from Morocco on 22 July back to Uruguay after he made another attempt to leave the country and reunite with his family who are refugees in Turkey. Officials in Uruguay apparently did not know that he had left the country as he travelled on a fake Tunisian passport which was detected when he arrived for a stopover in Morocco. Promised by his lawyers and officials that he would be reunited with his family when he left Guantánamo in 2014, Dhiab has not seen his wife in over 16 years. His family are also refugees from the current conflict in Syria. This was his fourth attempt to leave Uruguay, following previous attempted visits to Brazil, South Africa and Russia. He was questioned by Interpol on his return to the country and later released.

Extraordinary Rendition:
On 28 July, a judge in Washington ruled that a case against two CIA contractors who designed the extraordinary rendition’s torture programme can go ahead in September, in spite of various arguments brought up by them, including some of the defences Nazis used during the Nuremberg trials. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of three victims. If successful, the case is likely to lead to other victims bringing claims as well.

LGC Activities:
The July Shut Guantánamo! monthly demonstration was on 6 July. Our next monthly demonstration is on Thursday 3 August at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, W1A, and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch: