Thursday, September 01, 2011

LGC Newsletter – August 2011

Guantánamo Bay:
24-year old Canadian prisoner, Omar Khadr, the first person to be tried, last year, for war crimes committed as a minor since World War II, has replaced his Canadian legal team. Dennis Edney and Nathan Whitling, who represented Khadr pro bono and tirelessly for the past eight years, have been replaced by John Norris and Brydie Bethell. The news came in a letter from Khadr in which he thanked his former legal team for their work and support. Although his former lawyers have not commented, it is feared that Khadr was coerced to sign the typed letter and did not do so freely. Convicted of the murder of a US serviceman in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was aged just 15, he was sentenced to 40 years by a military tribunal but that was reduced through a secret plea bargain. He is due to return to Canada in October this year to serve the rest of his sentence.

Extraordinary rendition:
A habeas corpus case brought by the human rights NGO Reprieve for a Pakistani prisoner who has been held at the prison at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan without charge since at least 2004 has been dismissed by the High Court in London. Yunus Rahmatullah ( and another man were both captured in Iraq in 2004 by British forces who handed them over to the US military which has held them ever since and consequently “rendered” them to Bagram in Afghanistan. The handover of prisoners who potentially face torture is illegal and consequently the Foreign Office sought to deny knowledge of the men and then refused to disclose their identities. Reprieve sought to rely on habeas corpus – the common law right to know why one is being detained – to pressurise the British government to get the Americans to release Mr Rahmatullah, however the High Court decided that the matter is entirely in the hands of the US and not the concern of the British government. Reprieve intends to appeal this decision.

On 4 August, almost one month after the terms of reference and protocol for the handling of information in the forthcoming Detainee (Gibson) Inquiry into allegations of the involvement of British intelligence services in torture abroad, a coalition of 10 human rights NGOs and lawyers representing victims wrote to the Inquiry informing it of their withdrawal as they cannot cooperate with its stated terms, which are also in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the absolute ban on torture. Other criticisms lie in the limited scope of the inquiry, its use of secrecy and limited use of evidence, the limited ability to call witnesses and question key individuals, the lack of transparency and the limited role given to the very victims whose allegations of torture and abuse over the past few years led to the inquiry being called. As proposed, the Inquiry will be ineffective with little purpose, serving as little more than a waste of public funds and time without addressing key issues and possible failings that both victims and the public, whose taxes have funded this alleged involvement in torture, have a right to know. The Inquiry has responded and both the panel leading it and the government have urged all parties concerned to reconsider and has stated that the Inquiry will be held nonetheless.
For more on this news:
In a separate criminal inquiry into possible abuse of a prisoner by an MI6 agent, referred to the police by the agency, British police are seeking to interview prisoners at Guantánamo Bay concerning the possible involvement of this agent in the abuse of a non-British prisoner. The police cannot question any prisoners unless they are given permission to do so by the American government. Once this investigation is complete, the Detainee Inquiry can start its proceedings.

While the Coalition government wishes to use the Detainee Inquiry to draw a line under allegations made relating to the previous Labour government, allegations have continued to emerge since last year’s election. At the time of the general election last year, allegations emerged of a British man being tortured in a Bangladeshi prison with the knowledge of the UK security services. In August, proceedings were started at the High Court in London in a claim brought by a Kenyan man who claims he was kidnapped in Kenya last summer and “rendered” to Uganda, where he was held illegally, interrogated and tortured by individuals who claimed to be from the FBI and one from British intelligence. The agent is alleged to have taken part in the abuse of Omar Awadh Omar, 37, who was beaten during questioning.
More on this news:

An American appeals court has given leave to two American security contractors to sue Donald Rumsfeld, whom they allege permitted policies which allowed them to be tortured while working in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. The two men, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, were detained by their own army and subject to abuses including sleep deprivation, denied food, water and warmth and threatened with beatings at Camp Cropper, after trying to blow the whistle on the illegal activities of the company they were working for. They were both held for several months and never charged. Rumsfeld had pleaded immunity; however, this was rejected by the court, as the men had provided enough evidence to show that he had personally effected the policies allowing their abuse.

Following a case in a New York court between 2007 and 2011, concerning a private company accused of facilitating torture flights as part of the US’s extraordinary rendition programme, Reprieve has released a series of over 1500 documents which were a part of the case and which disclose a considerable amount of information for the first time about the business of extraordinary rendition. For the first time, some of the companies involved are identified as well as information about the “rendition” of particular victims. Details of flights and stopovers at airports all over the world, including Glasgow, Edinburgh and London Luton airports are provided as well as the revelation that a jet owned by Liverpool FC owner Philip Morse was used for over 55 “torture” flights passing and stopping off in various locations in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas (Guantánamo Bay). In between these flights, the jet was used to transport a baseball team to its matches in the US. As the documents name companies and their senior management and executives, it is possible that these documents will be used to bring prosecutions by victims against them.

LGC Activities:
Five people attended the August Shut Down Guantánamo! demonstration. The September demonstration will be on Friday 2 September at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE and then 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner (Marble Arch)
Media on the August demonstration:
(In Arabic, pictures from the demonstration)

If you have not yet added your name to the open letter to President Obama about Shaker Aamer, please do:

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