Thursday, January 31, 2019

LGC Newsletter – January 2019

Guantánamo Bay
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.”
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:
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.

LGC Activities:
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:

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.

Monday, December 31, 2018

LGC Newsletter – December 2018

Guantánamo Bay
Yemeni prisoner, Moath al-Alwi, who was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2001 and has been held at Guantánamo since 2002 has filed a petition in the US Supreme Court seeking a judicial review into the grounds for his ongoing detention without charge or trial. Al-Alwi disputes his classification as an enemy combatant and is currently being held as a “forever prisoner”, indefinitely without charge or trial. Previously, he has brought court cases to challenge the basis of his detention – habeas corpus – after Barack Obama declared the war in Afghanistan over in 2014 and as the nature of the war and the factions being fought there have changed considerably since 2001, however these cases were dismissed and hence his case at the US Supreme Court. He has argued consistently that under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force Act, authorising detention at Guantánamo, the US government does not have the authority to detain him.
Former teenage Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr appeared before a court in Edmonton, Canada, on 13 December, seeking to have his bail conditions changed so that he can have a Canadian passport and travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the Islamic pilgrimage and travel outside of his state without restrictions, as well as be allowed to communicate freely with his sister Zaynab over the telephone or Skype, as she lives outside of Canada. On 21 December, Judge June Ross ruled to maintain his bail conditions as “nothing has changed since the last time Khadr asked for eased bail conditions and there’s no evidence the current restrictions create hardship or are needlessly strict.” The bail conditions which were imposed following his US military court conviction, which he is appealing, were part of the conditions for his return to Canada and for him to serve his sentence in the community rather than in a maximum security prison, as he was held when he was initially returned to Canada. Khadr, who has married, works and is training as a first responder, has integrated well back into civilian life. Under the US sentence he was given in 2010, his sentence should have ended in 2018 and thus he should not be under any restrictions. In spite of Canada’s liberal credentials, its continued enforcement of a sentence obtained through torture evidence before a military tribunal and in secret circumstances that fall far below international standards for a fair trial, demonstrate that in spite of its large payment to Omar Khadr to avoid further embarrassment of its awareness and involvement in his torture and crimes against humanity he suffered, it is prepared to endorse and uphold such treatment of its citizens and defer to the illegal actions of the USA.
The decision to maintain Khadr’s bail conditions may also simply be a political manoeuver aimed at signalling Canada’s intentions and hard line with respect to Canadian nationals currently held as ISIS prisoners in Syria.
Many former prisoners face travel restrictions and the ability to obtain a passport in their countries upon release. Recently, former Mauritanian prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi has also criticised his government’s refusal to allow him to have a passport or leave Mauritania.
Although only one prisoner has been released over the past two years of President Trump’s administration, Periodic Reviews of prisoner status have continued. On 11 December, the periodic review of Yemeni prisoner Sanad Ali Yislam Al Kazimi was held. He refused to take part and in short proceedings had his representative read out a statement that said he refused to engage in the process as he has “no chance under the current political climate.” He has never been charged or tried. Five men cleared for release by the board under the previous administration remain at Guantánamo with no prospect of release.
LGC Activities:
The LGC held its monthly Shut Guantánamo! demos outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms on Monday 10 December. The change in date was to reflect that 10 December is Human Rights Days and this year also marked 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, entrenching modern human rights. Articles 5 and 9 ban torture and arbitrary detention.
Our first demonstration of 2019 will be at 12-2pm on Thursday 3 January outside the US Embassy, 33 Nine Elms Lane, SW11 7US. Further details here:
Please note that for the first time since 2008 the London Guantánamo Campaign is not organising a specific event to mark the anniversary of Guantánamo Bay opening on 11 January. Events are being organised by the Guantanamo Justice Campaign and Cage. Please refer to these organisations for details.