Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Friday, November 29, 2013
|LGC monthly demo, 7 November|
Shaker Aamer’s wife, father-in-law and daughter met with Foreign Secretary William Hague in early November to discuss progress on efforts to release him to the UK. Mr Hague wrote to Shaker Aamer last month; he has received the letter and replied. His MP Jane Ellison has also recently met American ambassador Matthew Barzun to discuss cooperation on his case.
On 17 November, CBS TV show 60 Minutes showed interviews and footage of Guantánamo Bay http://www.cbsnews.com/news/life-at-gitmo/ which included Shaker Aamer shouting out to reporters: “Please we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace or either tell the world the truth. Open up the place, let the world come and visit!” He also added: “You cannot walk even half a metre without being chained. Is that a human being? That's the treatment of an animal.”
|rally for Shaker Aamer|
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign held a march and rally for Shaker Aamer to mark 12 years of his detention in Battersea on 23 November. Several dozen people joined the march and the rally was well attended, with speakers including politicians John McDonnell MP, MEP Jean Lambert and a representative from Jane Ellison MP’s office, journalists Victoria Brittain and Andy Worthington, and organisations such as the CND and STWC. Aisha Maniar from the LGC addressed the rally, singling out the media for its failure to report on Shaker Aamer’s case or what happens at Guantánamo Bay, and its partial and inaccurate reporting when it does. The rally was poorly attended by mainstream media, who are largely responsible for the fact that few people know about Shaker Aamer’s plight and that of the other 163 prisoners.
Media from the day:
Although the US military officially declared the mass hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay to have ended in September, having fallen to 11 prisoners on hunger strike and being force fed at the beginning of this month, that number has recently started to rise again to 15, all of whom are being force fed, according to the Miami Herald newspaper, which has been tracking the hunger strike:
A new report, Ethics Abandoned, published on 4 November by a 20-person independent panel of health experts accused doctors and psychologists working in the US military and CIA detention centres of having “violated standard ethical principles and medical standards to avoid infliction of harm. The Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers (see attached) concludes that since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense (DoD) and CIA improperly demanded that U.S. military and intelligence agency health professionals collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in U.S. custody.”
The report lists practices that include the “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of prisoners, and recommends that medical practitioners follow professional codes of ethics and that their professional and governing bodies strengthen their commitment to such ethics.
Former prisoners Australian David Hicks and Canadian Omar Khadr, who were both convicted by a military tribunal, have formally started proceedings to appeal their convictions in the US courts. David Hicks was held at Guantánamo Bay for 5 years and was convicted on material support charges, which last year a US federal appeals court found to be a retroactive application of a law that did not exist at the time, in the successful appeal filed by former Bin Laden driver, Salim Hamdan.
Omar Khadr, the only person since World War II to have been convicted before a war crimes tribunal for offences committed as a minor, was held in Guantánamo Bay for almost 10 years, before being released to Canada in September 2012, where he is serving the rest of his sentence. Hicks too was detained upon his return to Australia and the governments of both Commonwealth countries were complicit in the prolonged ordeal of their citizens at Guantánamo Bay. Both men argue that a plea bargain was their only way out of Guantánamo Bay. Hicks has argued that he entered an “Alford plea” whereby, in US law, he pleaded guilty to an offence in a criminal court but he did not admit the act and asserts his innocence. David Hicks spoke about his case and the lasting impact of Guantánamo to Australian TV:
Although in Hicks’ case, the court has allowed the case fully, Khadr’s case could drag on for much longer as the court has asked first for consideration of whether or not the case can even be brought, given that part of the plea bargain was that he would not appeal the secret deal. Although Hicks’ case involved a similar clause, his lawyers claim it was not binding.
As well as launching this US appeal, Omar Khadr has launched an appeal in the Canadian courts against the decision not to transfer him to a federal prison. He has been held in maximum security facilities since his return to the country. His lawyer, Dennis Edney, is appealing on the basis that the judge ““erred in his interpretation” of International Transfer of Offenders Act when he denied Khadr’s request to be transferred to a provincial jail”. Khadr’s lawyers argue that his detention is illegal as he committed the offences as a minor and his detention should be considered on that basis.
Award-winning jazz musician, composer and singer Esperanza Spalding has released a new music video “We Are America” in response to the ongoing abuse of prisoners and the hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay. In the video, she is joined by fellow musicians Stevie Wonder, Janelle Morae and Harry Belafonte. You can hear her catchy message for justice and freedom here, and read an interview in which she explains why she recorded the track: https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/watch-esperanza-spalding-protests-guantanamo-injustice-new-music-video
Some political progress has been made on closing Guantánamo this month with the recently appointed envoys for the closure of Guantánamo Clifford Sloan and Paul Lewis visiting the facility and on 25 November, the US Senate passed amendments to the military authorisation bill that would make it easier for Barack Obama to transfer prisoners to the US and abroad.
Following years of similar reports, it has now been admitted that the CIA ran a secret prison within Guantánamo called “Penny Lane”, after the Beatles’ song, which served as a facility to turn prisoners into double agents working for the CIA after early release.
The African Commission of Human Rights heard its first court case concerning extraordinary rendition on 1 November. Sitting in Gambia, and hearing a case brought before the court against Djibouti by a Yemeni national, 49-year old businessman Mohammed Abdullah Saleh al-Asad, who was kidnapped in Tanzania (where he resided) in 2003, “rendered” and tortured by CIA interrogators in Djibouti and Afghanistan, before being returned to Yemen in 2005 after the CIA realised he has no connections to terrorism. The Yemeni authorities continued to hold him until mid-2006.
Similar to the cases of Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Nashiri, both currently facing trial and potentially the death penalty at Guantánamo Bay, against Poland for torture and facilitating rendition, which will be heard on 3 December by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), such courts offer the only avenue for victims to seek redress. Such actions would be impossible against the US directly, in view of the “state secrets doctrine”, which would block any case being brought. Instead, victims are resorting to courts with broader jurisdictions to make claims against states that colluded with the US. States such as Poland have repeated refused to and/or failed to investigate their own collusion in crimes against humanity. An application by Poland in October to have parts of the cases heard in closed, secret session was turned down by the ECtHR. However, “the court will hold an additional hearing, behind closed doors, a day earlier, the spokeswoman said, adding that the proceedings of that hearing "are confidential, and no public statement will be made about their nature or content."”
The November monthly “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 7 November. Seven people joined the protest. The December demonstration will be at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, opposite Marble Arch, Hyde Park, on Thursday 5 December: https://www.facebook.com/events/268246853323758/
On 12 November, Dan Viesnik from the LGC contributed to an Islam Channel programme, “Analysis” on medical ethics and torture in US military detention facilities, alongside Polly Rossdale from Reprieve and Makbool Javaid from Cageprisoners:
|Cakes donated to LGC by a supporter|
|Cakes donated to LGC by a supporter|
At the rally for Shaker Aamer on 23 November, at the LGC stall, supporters of our campaign made and donated cakes for sale, as well as some artworks, which helped us to raise around £100 for our campaign. The LGC is a self-funded organisation and any donations – of funds/time – to our completely voluntary work are much appreciated.
The LGC has now announced details of its demonstration to mark 12 years of the opening of Guantánamo Bay on Saturday 11 January:https://www.facebook.com/events/246710665485484/
Thursday, October 31, 2013
An appeal case, involving British residents Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha, was heard on 18 October against the use of force feeding of hunger strikers at Guantánamo Bay. They, and a third prisoner, argued that the procedure is "inhumane, degrading and a violation of medical ethics”, as well as being illegal. The Department of Defense has also reported that the two men are no longer on hunger strike. Fourteen other prisoners are reported to still be on hunger strike.
Ali Hamza Al Bahlul, a Yemeni prisoner convicted with a life sentence by a Guantánamo military tribunal in November 2008 for conspiracy, soliciting murder and providing material support for terrorism, had a retrial of his case, after his conviction was overturned on appeal in January 2013. The one day hearing of legal arguments on 30 September saw some of the previous arguments concerning whether conspiracy and material support for terrorism are war crimes expanded. It is likely that even if the US government wins the case in the retrial, the case will go to the Supreme Court where Al Bahlul may succeed in having his conviction overturned once and for all. The outcome of his case will have serious consequences for the ongoing 9/11 trial at Guantánamo and appeals by other prisoners who have been convicted.
The US government has dropped its objection to a habeas corpus plea and a judge has ordered that Sudanese prisoner Ibrahim Idris be released. Idris, who is schizophrenic, was diagnosed with mental illness shortly after his arrival at Guantánamo Bay. This has not prevented the US from holding him without charge or trial for nearly 12 years. The US government finally conceded that “he is far too sick” to continue being held at Guantánamo. He also suffers from various other illnesses and has spent most of his time there in the psychiatric ward.
On 7 October, following recent positive measures by the Kuwait government, including a meeting between the Emir of Kuwait and Barack Obama on the two remaining Kuwaitis in Guantánamo Bay, Fawzi Al-Odah and Fayiz Al-Kandari, the two men have decided to withdraw a lawsuit in Kuwait to sue the government there for failing to take action on their behalf. The Kuwaiti government has recently made the release of these two men, held without charge or trial, a priority.
Paul M Lewis, a senior White House lawyer, was appointed a special envoy for Guantanamo Bay closure at the Pentagon on 8 October, a position he assumes from 1 November. He will work alongside Clifford Sloan, his counterpart at the State Department on this issue and the transfer of prisoners held in Afghanistan. In spite of new promises made by Barack Obama earlier this year, progress has been slow on releasing prisoners and reviewing their cases. www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/8/hagel-appoints-envoy-closing-guantanamo-bay/
On 9 October, the Department of Defense announced that it was relaunching its periodic review of the cases of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay http://www.lawfareblog.com/2013/10/relaunch-of-the-gtmo-periodic-review-boards/
Following a hearing last month, an Edmonton judge has ruled against the transfer of Omar Khadr to a provincial jail. He is currently being held at a maximum security prison, and will not have the opportunity for parole, even though he would otherwise have been eligible in March. Lawyers for Khadr had argued that he was illegally being held as an adult for offences committed as a minor. In a clearly political ruling, the judge said that his decision was not about “a number of matters” that included a conviction before a military tribunal whose judgments even the US federal courts do not agree with and a conviction obtained through the use of torture.
In the ongoing 9/11 case at Guantánamo Bay, in which pre-trial hearings resumed on 21 October, issues about the use of torture in procuring evidence were raised. One of the defendants claims he suffers ongoing pain and illness as a result of the torture he was subjected to. Other issues related to torture were also raised. Lawyers for the men are also seeking the declassification of CIA documents and records concerning their clients, without which they claim they cannot mount an effective defence. Earlier in the month, the judge said that he would not allow technological issues to set back the trial. The next pre-trial hearing in the case of Abd Al-Nashiri has been set back to December, although it should have been held in early November.
The appeal against the conviction of former Guantánamo prisoner, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the only prisoner to be tried before a civil court in New York, for his involvement in the bombing of two US Embassies in east Africa in 1998, was dismissed. He was convicted in 2010, and was held in secret prisons where he was tortured before arriving at Guantánamo in 2006. He claimed that the delay in bringing him to trial and the conditions of his detention prior to trial denied him the right to a speedy trial. His lawyer has said he will appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi has reported that Yemen is planning to build a rehabilitation centre for any prisoners returned from Guantánamo Bay and laid the blame for delays in the return of prisoners on the US and what it expected for prisoners to be returned home.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has demanded to know what measures the US has taken to address the demands of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay, and has found the response to be a “systematic violation of human rights”. The Commission has not been able to meet prisoners but is hoping to investigate further why the US government has failed to take action to close Guantánamo. It condemned the force feeding of prisoners as cruel and inhumane treatment.
Having been asked last month to reopen its investigations into torture prisons run for the CIA, particularly in respect to the torture faced by Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, one of the current defendants in the 9/11 case before the Guantánamo military tribunal, the Lithuanian authorities have again refused to investigate allegations of torture, in spite of new evidence having come to light, claiming that “that they [human rights NGOs] had failed to “prove” that al-Hawsawi was transported to Lithuania between 2004 and 2006, and illegally detained and tortured there”, even though it is the public prosecutor’s job to do that. The rejection letter from the public prosecutor was dated just one day after a meeting with European human rights NGOs on the matter.
Demonstrating that the US practice of extraordinary rendition is still very much alive and operational, on 5 October, an alleged Al Qaeda operative known as Abu Anas Al Libi was kidnapped in broad daylight in Tripoli by US army forces with the assistance of the FBI and the CIA. Operating outside of the law when kidnapping a foreign national in a foreign state, although the Libyan government denies any knowledge of and has not disputed this breach of its sovereignty, he was then held on board a US warship, the USS San Antonio, in the Mediterranean Sea. Having “disappeared” briefly during this time, he may well have been tortured, although no details have emerged of his treatment. He was then brought to court in New York on 15 October and indicted on charges related to terrorism, to which he pleaded not guilty. Questions remain unanswered about the illegal manner in which the US chose to proceed. Britain may well have a role to play in the matter after it emerged that Al-Libi was given asylum in the UK, even though he has been on the US’ “10 most wanted” list since 2001. The kidnapping in Libya was parallel to a failed similar operation in Somalia.
The European Parliament has again, in a new resolution, called on member states to end impunity for involvement in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme. MEPs stated that they were “highly disappointed” by the lack of response by states to a resolution last year demanding that states take action. The EU Parliament wants its own powers to investigate to be reinforced and “The resolution makes specific calls on Lithuania, Romania, Poland, the UK, Italy, Finland, France, Sweden, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Latvia and Slovakia. For example, it asks the UK authorities to establish a "human-rights-compliant inquiry" into the rendition, torture and ill-treatment of detainees abroad.”
Following Poland’s failure to make progress in the investigation of torture and torture facilities in the country, two cases have been referred to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by current Guantánamo prisoners Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Nashiri, both currently facing trial at Guantánamo. The court, demonstrating to its members how speedily justice should be administered, will hear the cases on 2-3 December. Poland, however, has asked for the trial to be heard in secret to protect its interests.
At the end of this month, Poland granted “injured person” status to a third prisoner who was held at a secret CIA-run prison there, Walid Bin Attash, who is currently held at Guantánamo Bay. This is a positive step as “Under Polish law an “injured person” may review files as well as make a complaint concerning refusal to disclose documents. He has also the right to challenge delays in the proceedings.”
On 21 October, a case was heard at the High Court in London concerning the British government’s involvement in the rendition in 2004 from Malaysia to Libya of Libyan politician Abdel Hakim Belhadj and his wife Fatima Bouchar, who was pregnant at the time. The British government argued that the case should be thrown out as it could damage US-UK relations and may seek to have parts of the case heard in secret under the Justice and Security Act 2013, which would exclude both Belhadj and the public from knowing those parts of the case. Allegations made by Belhadj and his family were confirmed after documents demonstrating MI6’s direct involvement were found in Tripoli following the fall of the Gaddafi regime.
The October monthly “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 3 October. Three people joined the protest which coincided with National Poetry Day and poems were read out by Val Brown, Dan Viesnik and Noel Hamel by the Shaker Aamer, his children, and Talha Ahsan.
The November demonstration will be at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, opposite Marble Arch, Hyde Park, on Thursday 7 November: https://www.facebook.com/events/195115897339394/
The London Guantánamo Campaign contributed to a conference on the future of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign powers in 2014. In the afternoon, Aisha Maniar, Val Brown and Noel Hamel from the LGC held two workshops on torture prisons and extraordinary rendition relating to Afghanistan and beyond which were well attended and at which a good discussion was held on the issues involved.
The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) has published its annual report of actions across the globe to mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June. Please turn to page 29 of the report to see our contribution in London:
Monday, September 30, 2013
Shaker Aamer has brought a case before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal against the security services for their ongoing involvement in his detention at Guantánamo Bay. The case concerns untrue defamatory comments made about him by the security services which continue to provide the basis of his detention and their involvement in his interrogations in 2002 when he was held at Bagram in Afghanistan.
|September monthly demonstration, at Marble Arch|
Two former Algerian prisoners, Nabil Hadjarab, 34, and Mouati Sayab, 37, who returned to the country after being released from Guantánamo Bay on 28 August were released from jail under “judicial supervision”, a form of supervised parole on 5 September, having been detained upon their return:
In a meeting between Barack Obama and the Emir of Kuwait in Washington on 13 September, the Kuwaiti leader raised the issue of the continuing detention without charge or trial of two Kuwaiti nationals, Fayiz Al Kandari and Fawzi Al Odah. He called on the US President to speed up the process of releasing them as part of his commitment to close Guantánamo. During the visit, it was agreed that a Kuwaiti delegation would visit Washington and Guantánamo to discuss the two men’s cases. Previous stipulations for the men to be returned, such as the building of a $40 million rehabilitation centre in Kuwait that remains unused, have all been met by the Kuwaiti government.
Briefings were also given in September to the Kuwaiti parliament and ministers concerning efforts by a special committee on the “Kuwaiti Hostages in Guantánamo”.
The ongoing pre-trial hearings in the case of five men accused of involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York resumed on 16 September and were immediately hampered by a number of problems, including a sick defence lawyer and interruptions by the defendants demanding they be allowed to speak. The hearing was then adjourned until Wednesday 18 September, when it resumed to consider whether or not the pre-trial hearings should be adjourned until next year to sort out some technical issues with computers and secure communications. The judge will make his decision later on this matter.
Before the hearing, it was revealed that in a secret hearing in August, the judge had made a secret judgment to not allow evidence to be withheld from the defendants and their counsel by the US government. This was the first secret hearing in this case, for which the courtroom was emptied of the public and defendants and the judgment itself is heavily redacted.
Omar Khadr, 27, who returned from Guantánamo Bay to Canada on 29 September last year, where he remains detained in a maximum security jail, had his first ever hearing in a proper court of law on 23 September, when he appeared before an Edmonton court to consider whether he should be moved from a maximum security jail to a provincial prison, in view of the offences that he was convicted of at Guantánamo Bay took place when he was a minor and that such a facility would be more conducive to his reintegration into society. Supporters held a demonstration outside the court and over 120 pro-Omar Khadr supporters crowded the courtroom to show their support, an emotional event for many as it was the first they and Khadr came face to face. Omar Khadr did not address the court or his supporters but his lawyer Dennis Edney spoke outside. The judge has reserved judgment on the matter until a later date. This hearing is the first on the road to securing justice for Omar Khadr.
On 24 September, the US military which was slow to report the existence of a mass hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay declared that it was over with the number of prisoners on hunger strike stabilising at 18 with 17 force fed for the past few weeks. The US military said it will no longer provide updates on the hunger strike. Lawyers for the prisoners who have visited recently say that conditions have largely returned to how they were prior to the hunger strike. Six prisoners had been on long-term hunger strike before this action started in February. The hunger strike was met with heavy-handed and repressive measures, including solitary confinement, physical searches of prisoners, deprivation of personal items, and nasal-tube force feeding among others. The hunger strike did achieve some of its objectives, forcing Barack Obama to revisit his broken promises to close Guantánamo, but more needs to be done to ensure that the remaining 164 prisoners are released and the prison closed.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks marked the twelfth anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks by calling on the 47 members of the Council of Europe to be held accountable for their involvement in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme following the attacks, reflecting on “the anti-terrorist response adopted by the USA and Europe. By allowing unlawful detentions and interrogation techniques amounting to torture, this response caused further suffering and violated human rights law.” He called for a full investigation, for states to re-open investigations and not allow secrecy laws to prevent them from disclosing what they know or affording impunity to state officials.
Following a failure to respond by European Union states to a resolution passed by the European Parliament on 11 September 2012 on complicity in extraordinary rendition, updating an earlier European Parliament report and calling for mechanisms to be set up to ensure accountability, the European Parliament set up on 4 September a new motion calling for accountability and investigations by member states.
A former CIA chief, who is wanted in Italy, having been convicted of involvement in the 2003 extraordinary rendition to Egypt, via Italy and Germany, of Milan-based Sheikh Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, has asked the country to pardon him. In July, Robert Seldon Lady was briefly detained in Panama pending possible extradition to Italy to serve his sentence, handed down in absentia. He apparently did not realise that the conviction made him a fugitive and he could be extradited to Italy at any time to serve his 9-year sentence. He also claims that he was told that what he was doing at the time was legal.
On 16 September, three habeas corpus cases were brought before the DC Circuit Court in Washington concerning prisoners held without charge or trial at Bagram in Afghanistan. The right to know why you are detained (known as habeas corpus) afforded to Guantánamo prisoners is not granted to prisoners at Bagram. Having handed the prison over to the Afghan authorities last year, the US military continues to hold and control the detention of 57 prisoners, mainly foreigners. The court has been asked to consider whether or not they can challenge their detention by bringing habeas corpus cases, to know why they are being held, which has worked for some Guantánamo prisoners. The cases were dismissed last year but the prisoners have been allowed to appeal. One case involves a prisoner who was detained at the age of14 and was a minor at the time. None of the individuals involved know why they are detained.
One of the lawyers, Eric Lewis, defending his client Amanatullah wrote the following him and the bizarre “legal” conditions that justify continued detention at Bagram: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/09/kafka-in-bagram.htm
Amnesty International has called on Lithuania to reopen its investigation, closed in 2011, into its operation of torture prisons for the CIA. It emerged in September that another prisoner, Mustafa Al-Hamsawi, a 45-year old Saudi national currently held at Guantánamo Bay and one of the defendants in the 9/11 case was held there and tortured at some point between 2004 and 2006. A complaint was filed on his behalf with the Lithuanian authorities on 13 September.
British extraordinary rendition victim Mahdi Hashi has been on hunger strike in the US since August in protest at the harsh conditions of detention he faces there. Hashi, 23, moved with his family to the UK from Somalia aged 7 and acquired British nationality. He returned to live in Somalia and “disappeared” there last year. Shortly before his “disappearance”, he had his British citizenship removed without explanation, which he is currently fighting in the UK courts, and had been harassed by MI5 to work for it. He then resurfaced months later in US custody, charged with involvement in terrorism offences, for which he is currently detained in solitary confinement awaiting trial.
The September monthly “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 5 September. Nine people joined the protest. One of the protesters at this month’s demonstration was Mavis Condon from the Raised Voices choir who sang a song she penned a few years ago called “Time to Close Guantánamo”.
The October demonstration will be at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, opposite Marble Arch, Hyde Park, on Thursday 3 October: https://www.facebook.com/events/525278384218245/ This month’s demonstration will be in solidarity with Mahdi Hashi, British extraordinary rendition victim on hunger strike in the US and British citizens Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad who were extradited to the US on 5 October 2012.
The London Guantánamo Campaign has started to work on its action to mark the 12th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay opening in January 2014. If you are interested in getting involved in any way, please let us know. We would appreciate your support.