Sunday, April 29, 2012

LGC Newsletter – April 2012

British Residents:
To greet MPs returning from their Easter break, campaigners from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (SSAC), the LGC and others held a lively and colourful protest outside Parliament on Monday 16 April calling for the release and return to the UK of the last Londoner in Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer. Around 30 people joined the demonstration held between 1 and 3pm. MPs Jane Ellison and John McDonnell also joined the protesters briefly as did journalist Andy Worthington, who spoke briefly as well. Following the protest, John McDonnell tabled the following Early Day Motion 2955 in support of the SSAC and calling for further action for Shaker Aamer to return to his family in the UK: It has been signed by 12 MPs so far; if your MP has not signed, please contact them and ask them to add their name. You can find them at
The e-petition calling on the Foreign Office to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, started on the tenth anniversary of his illegal detention at Guantánamo Bay, has now been replaced, with the same wording, by the following e-petition: If you signed the previous e-petition (before 20 April), please sign the new petition as well. It has been extended to a one-year deadline, of 20 April 2013, on which date, if more than 100,000 signatures are collected, it will trigger a debate in parliament on the issue. To sign, you need to be resident in the United Kingdom. You do not need to be of voting age.
Reports on the 16 April demonstration:

Guantánamo Bay:
Two Chinese Uighur prisoners were released to El Salvador on 19 April, the first two prisoners to be released in over a year. Their release, along with other Uighur prisoners, had been ordered several years ago; however, they cannot be released to China, where they are members of a persecuted ethnic group and would face further persecution and torture. The two men have been identified by their lawyers as Ahmed Mohamed and Abdul Razak. Several other Uighur prisoners have been sent to other safe third countries such as the Bahamas and Palau, where they are likely to resettle permanently. This brings the prisoner number to 169.

The American government has made a formal application to the Canadian government for the return of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr. Pending approval by the Canadian government, which has consistently dragged its heels over Mr Khadr’s return to the country, he could be released by the end of next month. The only person to have been convicted of war crimes committed as a minor since World War II, Omar Khadr, now 25, has been held for the past ten years. Convicted in October 2010 under a secret plea deal, he was to be released to complete his sentence in Canada. Upon his return, he is likely to be released on parole. In the run up to his release, a defamatory media campaign has started in the Canadian press to discredit him and his return to the country.

Extraordinary rendition:
Lawyers for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the Libyan man whose “rendition” to Libya through the active participation of the British government from Malaysia in 2004 was uncovered by Human Rights Watch in September 2011, have brought proceedings against Jack Straw MP, who was foreign secretary at the time. Mr Straw has been accused of complicity in torture for the suffering Mr Belhaj and his wife faced in both Thailand and Libya. He is also accused of misfeasance or inappropriate conduct in public office. In addition to this, Mr Straw also faces questioning from the Scotland Yard over the matter following a criminal investigation into the rendition announced earlier this year, and which led to the collapse of the Gibson Inquiry.
Since then, further evidence has emerged of the close relationship between the Blair government and the Libyan regime, in particular intelligence sharing about Libyan dissidents living in the UK, facilitating the work of Libyan spies working against dissidents in the UK and passing on information about Libyan political refugees. Brushing off the news, concerning a period during which simultaneously trade links between Libya and the UK continued to strengthen, Lord Goldsmith, attorney general at the time, defended Tony Blair’s government, stating that they believed “he [Gaddafi] had turned for the good”.
Following requests from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Extraordinary Rendition under the Freedom of Information Act, the Information Tribunal has ruled that there was “a very strong public interest in transparency and accountability” in the government revealing what it, its ministers, their departments and the intelligence services knew about extraordinary rendition and whether ministers actually did show their stated opposition to the practice. This is in particular as ministers have had to retract statements they have previously made in parliament concerning the rendition of British residents. Nonetheless, the Tribunal ruled that documents concerning the role of the intelligence services must not be disclosed in the interest of national security. Andrew Tyrie MP, the chair of the APPG, said that the ruling made the setup of a new inquiry into the UK’s role in extraordinary rendition more urgent.

In spite of the Coalition government’s allegations that collusion in extraordinary rendition was a practice of the former government, in March this year, the High Court allowed two Kenyan men (a claim was allowed by another man last year) to prosecute the British government for involvement in their rendition to Uganda and torture there in the summer of 2010, just months after the Coalition government took power. The two men, Habib Suleiman Njoroge and his brother Yahya Suleiman Mbuthia, claim they were taken to Uganda for questioning where they were tortured; American and British intelligence officers were present while they were abused during interrogations. They were arrested along with other Kenyan Muslims following suicide bomb attacks on crowds watching the football World Cup in July 2010. They claim they were threatened with being taken to Guantánamo Bay during interrogations. The High Court has allowed them to bring their claim and to seek documents in support of their application from the government. When the case is heard, it is likely that parts of it will involve the use of a “special advocate”, a security-vetted barrister who will represent the claimants in secret hearings as part of the case to allegedly protect national security. The claimants and their lawyers will not ever learn what happens during these secret proceedings and the special advocate will not be allowed to communicate with them once they are party to the secret evidence. This evidence will not appear in any final open judgment either, although it may be the basis of the judgment itself. The government is seeking to introduce such secret proceedings, which essentially undo the whole purpose of having a trial and “one’s day in court” through its controversial Green Paper on Justice and Security. It also tried to introduce such a measure to protect itself in the case brought by several former Guantánamo prisoners in 2011 which ended in an out-of-court settlement and in which the judge ruled that such measures could not be used.

Following the Polish government’s public announcement last month of charges brought against former senior members of the country’s intelligence services for collusion with the CIA in the operation of a secret “dark” prison in the country, prosecutors have finally met with lawyers representing prisoners held there months after the charges were first brought. Some of the prisoners previously held there and tortured continue to be held at Guantánamo Bay. The move shows Poland’s commitment to investigating this unfortunate episode and could lead the way for other European countries accused of similar actions to carry out their own investigations too.

LGC Activities:
The April “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 5th April and was attended by 8 people. The May demonstration is on Friday 4 May at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm at Marble Arch:

Monday, April 02, 2012

LGC Newsletter – March 2012


British Residents:
During the official visit by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to the United States in mid-March, Foreign Secretary William Hague raised the case of Shaker Aamer with his counterpart Hilary Clinton. In response to a question put to him in the House of Commons by Caroline Lucas MP on 15 March, Mr Hague said he had raised the issue with Mrs Clinton, as he had done on several other occasions. Continuing the use of the language used by the Coalition government in recent months in respect to Mr Aamer’s case, William Hague said that Britain and the US would continue “to engage […] on this issue until a solution is reached”. The British government’s language and position on Mr Aamer’s return to the UK remain ambiguous and suggest that such a “solution” could involve Shaker Aamer’s return to Saudi Arabia or a third country rather than to his family in the UK.
The British government has not sought to clarify what it means in this respect. Consequently, we urge you to add your name to the e-petition to the Foreign Office on the return of Shaker Aamer to the UK, which could prompt a serious debate on the issue in the House of Commons, if at least 100,000 signatures are added:

Guantánamo Bay:
Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr may return to Canada by the end of May with his transfer likely to be approved by the US in early April. Approval is then only needed by the Canadian government. He was convicted in late 2010 in the first military trial for war crimes committed as a minor since World War II. Arrested in 2002 in Afghanistan, Omar Khadr was 15 at the time of his stated offences. He has spent almost a whole decade in Guantánamo Bay. Although the repatriation process, commenced by his lawyers over a year ago, does not usually take so long, the Canadian government has dragged its heels over allowing him to return to the country. Under a secret plea bargain in his case, leading to his conviction, Omar Khadr would spend one further year (now over 18 months) in Guantánamo and then serve the remainder of his eight-year sentence in Canada. His lawyers report that Mr Khadr is becoming increasingly “frustrated” with the constant delays.

Talks have been on-going in March over the release of five Taleban leaders held at Guantánamo which is likely to take place soon. Rather than return the men to Afghanistan, negotiations include the Qatari government for them to be sent to that state, which they will not be allowed to leave. The release of these five men is part of broader negotiations between the US and Afghan governments, in which the prisoners are being used as bargaining chips, clearly demonstrating that there are few serious impediments to the US releasing prisoners when it is in their interest and regardless of their alleged or actual status.

Extraordinary rendition:
A former head of the intelligence services in Poland was arrested on 27 March for allegedly helping to set up secret CIA detention facilities in the country in the early 2000s. The charges include unlawful deprivation of liberty, unlawful failure to provide access to a neutral tribunal, abuse of office by a public official and using “corporal punishment” against a prisoner. Confirmation of such sites has been provided by other officials in the intelligence services as part of Poland’s on-going investigation into its role in extraordinary rendition started in 2008. Mr Zbigniew Siemiatkowski has refused to comment on the charges brought against him but has not denied the reports. The location of one such prison, alleged to have been operative in 2002-2003 is near a small village in a remote part of the country. Human rights NGOs claim that up to at least 8 individuals may have been held illegally and tortured in Poland. This follows confirmation of such sites by the Lithuanian authorities and a media report on an illegal CIA prison in Bucharest, Romania last year.
Earlier in March, Amnesty International urged all EU state to reinvestigate “torture” flights passing through their territory and refuelling at European airports. The organisation accused EU states of “an appalling lack of political will to secure the truth”. The Council of Europe claims that over a 1000 such flights passed through Europe in 2002-2009. The European Parliament is set to revisit a 2005 investigation into complicity in the CIA extraordinary rendition programme.
LGC Activities:
The March “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 1st March and was attended by 5 people. The April demonstration is on Thursday 5 April at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm at Marble Arch:

The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (SSAC) is organising a protest in Parliament Square on Monday 16 April at 1-3pm. This is the day that parliament reconvenes after the Easter break. Please join the protest if you can.