Tuesday, August 31, 2010

LGC Newsletter - August 2010

Guantánamo Bay:
Omar Khadr’s military tribunal started on 11 August at Guantánamo Bay. On Monday 9 August, at a pre-trial hearing, legal precedents were already being set with the judge deciding that evidence obtained through torture was admissible in his case. The case was thus biased against Mr. Khadr before it even started as the “evidence”, his confessions to the charges against him, was obtained under duress and after threats of rape and death: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/khadrs-confessions-admissible-military-judge-rules/article1666620/ The following day, as the jury in the trial was sworn in, one juror, a serving lieutenant colonel in the US army, who had said that he agreed with President Obama that Guantánamo should be closed down, was removed from the jury, for lacking impartiality. The impartiality of the actual jury is questionable as those serving on it had volunteered to do so, further tipping the balance against Mr. Khadr:
Omar Khadr attended his trial on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday, there were opening statements from the prosecution and defence. Evidence, including video evidence, was presented to the courtroom and in the afternoon, while cross-examining a prosecution witness, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, Khadr’s defence lawyer, collapsed in the courtroom and the trial has now been adjourned for at least one month. Jackson was hospitalised and has since been transferred to the mainland US. It is uncertain when the trial will start again. The trial was observed by the international media, including Al-Jazeera, Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper, the Independent and Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, covered each day of the hearing and posted his blogs at: http://www.amnesty.ca/blog_post2.php?id=1921 Amnesty International is calling on the US and Canadian governments to call an end to the trial before it resumes. On 27 August, the New York Times reported that senior officials in the Obama administration are unhappy with the first case being heard under the new military commissions regime being that of Omar Khadr, claiming that it “is undermining their broader effort to showcase reforms that they say have made military commissions fair and just” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/28/us/28gitmo.html The article also claims that they felt it would have been more satisfactory to reach a plea bargain in the case. A plea bargain was put to Mr. Khadr in July, in which he would be given a set prison sentence in return to confessing to killing a US soldier in 2002, which he rejected. At no time has the US actually taken measures to halt the commission, which without even surviving its first full day, has already set worrying precedents for trials involving minors and the level of evidence required in such trials.

On 12 August, in a separate trial, 51-year old Sudanese prisoner, Ibrahim Al-Qosi, became the first prisoner to be sentenced since Barack Obama became president. Mr. Al-Qosi pleaded guilty to conspiracy and providing material support to terrorism by doing his job as a cook and driver to Osama Bin Laden and his associates. He was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment, however a secret plea deal was reached in his case, and he is likely to serve fewer years. He entered a guilty plea, under the plea bargain, in July, avoiding the need for trial. Mr. Al-Qosi has been held at Guantánamo Bay for more than eight and a half years and was one of the first people to be charged. Human Rights Watch, observing the proceedings, condemned the secretive nature of the proceedings and the plea bargain as a “farce”. More on this news:

On 19 August, the Independent reported that the closure of Guantánamo Bay is unlikely in President Obama’s first term as president. Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson, who took over running of the prison in June, gave an interview to the newspaper and reported that he has not received any direct orders to start transferring prisoners so that the prison can close:
The transfer of prisoners is problematic, with many in the US opposed to their transfer to the mainland and opposition from political parties and senators. The risk of prisoners being transferred to other similar sites elsewhere, such as Bagram in Afghanistan, still poses a major concern. The US has not expressed how it will deal with this issue. Around 180 prisoners still remain.

Extraordinary rendition:
In an interview in the Independent on Sunday on 29 August, Labour leadership candidate and former Foreign Secretary David Miliband continued to peddle the myth that his ministry was unaware that it was complicit in involvement in extraordinary rendition and the abuse of British nationals and residents at Guantánamo Bay when it cooperated closely with the US following 9/11. Mr. Miliband admitted that abuses had occurred and British intelligence had been slow to act but did not admit to the knowing complicity of agents and ministry staff. Documents made public through the Binyam Mohamed case and statements by former prisoners show that there was awareness among senior ranks of the civil service and among agents of the very nature of the torture and abuse meted out and exactly what was happening to British prisoners held by the US. For more on this news:

LGC Activities:
The September monthly Shut Down Guantánamo! will be on Friday 3 September at 6-7pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, Mayfair. On Friday 6 August, the LGC held an extended two hour demonstration outside the US Embassy in protest at Omar Khadr’s military tribunal. Ten people attended the demonstration. A petition calling for justice for Omar Khadr was later sent to the US ambassador to London and was signed by over 100 people. For a report and pictures of the demonstration, please see:

In August, the LGC launched a letter writing campaign asking people to write to some of the former prisoners who are currently settling down into new lives in Europe. Details were provided for three prisoners who are currently being helped by Reprieve to settle in Slovakia. Conditions after their release have not been easy. The LGC asks people continue writing to these men – a short card/letter – to help boost their morale and help them settle into their new life. For more details on the campaign: http://londonguantnamocampaign.blogspot.com/2010/08/write-to-released-guantanamo-prisoners.html

London Guantánamo Campaign

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