Since September, the US Congress has been debating a new law, the National Defense Authorization Act 2012, which would allow “terrorism” suspects to be transferred to Guantánamo Bay and tried before military tribunals there and perpetuate the regime of indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay. A clause in it would also legalise “enhanced interrogation techniques”, otherwise known as “torture” in the English language. President Obama, who remains committed to closing Guantánamo, has expressed his opposition to this plan. On 4 October, Senator Harry Reid blocked the bill from being debated by the Senate (equivalent to the British House of Lords) due to the language used in framing these proposals which would keep Guantánamo Bay open indefinitely. Since then, another senator, John McCain has asked President Obama to ignore Senator Reid and push ahead with the law. The president has the right to veto it. On 18 October, the Pentagon’s top lawyer spoke out in favour of closing Guantánamo and against “over-militarizing our approach to al-Qaida and its affiliates.” [Source: Miami Herald]
More on this news and link to Amnesty USA action to block this law:
Although Omar Khadr is eligible to leave Guantánamo Bay on Monday 31 October, his return to his native Canada may take up to 18 months, the usual term for the repatriation of offenders to the country. The Canadian government is unlikely to expedite his case. After pleading guilty to war crimes in a secret plea bargain, in a trial which admitted torture evidence and was the first military trial for crimes allegedly committed as a minor since WWII, Omar Khadr was allowed to serve the last 8 years of his sentence in a Canadian jail. His lawyers have stated that the transfer process has been started.
On 19 October, the government published its Justice and Security Green Paper, proposing to introduce the use of closed hearings, secret evidence and “special advocates”, lawyers who represent but cannot communicate with their clients, in national security-sensitive cases, essentially to prevent information about the government’s involvement in torture and international criminal activity abroad falling into the public domain. The proposals would also introduce the use of closed inquests in such cases too. This follows, in particular, the Binyam Mohamed case in which the government, following years of denial of awareness of his torture and extraordinary rendition, was forced to admit that it had lied to the courts, parliament and the British public, on the grounds that it would affect intelligence-sharing relations with the US. A potential outcome of this case is that had certain documents not been disclosed, evidence obtained through torture from Binyam Mohamed could have been used as evidence against him. The green paper was announced on 6 July 2010 along with the forthcoming Gibson Inquiry, which also intends to use secret evidence and closed hearings. As well as preventing information about the government’s collusion in torture being disclosed and essentially making any such legal action pointless, it will also strongly undermine the right to a fair trial and a centuries-long tradition of open trials in the United Kingdom. There is also a potential for this to seep into other areas of the law; secret evidence and closed hearings are already used in other national security-sensitive cases, including those tried under laws introduced in the UK post-9/11 and pre-Guantánamo leading to a regime of arbitrary detention without charge or trial at HMP Belmarsh for foreign terrorism suspects, dubbed “Britain’s own Guantánamo”.
For more on this news:
A case that is likely to be argued under the same principles as the Binyam Mohamed case, if it is successful, is that brought this month by Libyan extraordinary rendition victim Sami Al-Saadi. In 2004, Al-Saadi, his wife and his four young children were kidnapped in Hong Kong and “rendered” to Libyan where they were detained and tortured. Documents disclosed by Human Rights Watch since the fall of the Gaddafi regime show that Britain was instrumental in their rendition and confirm his claims that he was questioned by UK intelligence officers while held in Libya. Mr Al-Saadi has said that he is bringing the case so that the truth is known and to prevent this happening again.
Prosecutors in Lithuania have decided not to reopen an investigation into possible CIA-run secret torture prisons in the country, in spite of new evidence provided to them by Amnesty International and Reprieve. The investigation was closed in January due to a lack of evidence. A 2009 parliamentary investigation in the country had confirmed the presence of such jails but not that anyone had been held there. The two human rights organisations have provided names of individuals alleged to have been held there. Since then, Guantánamo Bay “high-value” prisoner Abu Zubayda, kidnapped in 2002 and held in secret detention facilities for almost five years, where he was subject to waterboarding, among other forms of torture, is bringing a case against Lithuania at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, over its role in his extraordinary rendition.
A dozen people attended the October Afghan War Anniversary Shut Down Guantánamo! demonstration on Friday 7 October. The November demonstration will be held on Friday 4 November at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park (opposite Marble Arch).With just months to go until Guantánamo marks its first complete decade of torture and arbitrary detention, please join us if you can to show your opposition to its on-going existence
The London Guantánamo Campaign also took part in the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign’s very successful action alongside the Stop The War Coalition’s Mass Anti-War Rally on 8 October to mark the tenth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, where most Guantánamo detainees were held prisoner before being transferred, including British resident Shaker Aamer. A cage display was held, 100s of signatures were collected on petitions and leaflets were handed out; at one stage, campaigners managed to get Tony Blair, David Cameron and Barack Obama behind bars but they escaped quite quickly…
For pictures and a report of the action: https://london.indymedia.org/articles/10367
Please sign the London Guantánamo Campaign’s e-petition to the US Ambassador to London which we intend to deliver on 11 January 2012 http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/release_aamer_and_belbacha/ addressed to the US ambassador to the UK calling for the return of Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha to the UK and the closure of Guantánamo Bay. Please add your name (and comments, if you wish) and ask your friends and family to do as well. Look out for further updates on planned actions.