The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (SSAC) website has been relaunched at http://www.saveshaker.org/ with news about the e-petition and other campaign work linked to Shaker Aamer’s case. Please visit the site for updates and news.
The US government is currently considering transferring a number of Afghan prisoners suspected to be militants to Afghanistan as part of a deal to restart talks with the Taliban. Previously, as part of similar talks, the US intended to send several Afghan prisoners to Qatar to be placed under effective house arrest there, considering it too risky to return them to Afghanistan. However, it is now considering transferring others, considered low-risk prisoners, to Afghan custody, where they would be likely to be held at a currently US-run prison near the Bagram detention facility. Talks between the Taliban, the Afghan government and the US broke down earlier this year and it is hoped that this move will help to restart negotiations. However, it is also further proof that Guantánamo prisoners are merely pawns in the political and diplomatic games of others. President Karzai of Afghanistan has, for his part, consistently demanded the return of all Afghan prisoners to the country.
The Pentagon has dropped war crime charges against Kuwaiti prisoner Faiz Al Kandari, accused in 2008 of being involved with Al Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism. He was never referred for trial and now all charges have been dropped without reason. The US and Kuwaiti governments are also stepping up efforts to secure the release of the two remaining Kuwaiti prisoners at Guantánamo Bay: Mr Al Kandari, and Fawzi Al Odah, who has never faced charges. A further 10 Kuwaitis have already been released. In mid-July, lawyers for the two men in Kuwait brought a court case against government officials to pressurise them to seek the release of the two remaining prisoners.
Hearings for five men accused of involvement in the 11 September attacks in New York in 2001, including Khaled Sheikh Mohamed, have successfully petitioned for the next stage of their trial to be set back from 8-12 August to 22-26 August, so as not to clash with the Muslim month of fasting Ramadan, which ends a few days before 22 August.
On 10 July, Sudanese prisoner, Ibrahim Al-Qosi, 52, convicted on terrorism charges in a secret plea deal in July 2010, was released to Sudan. This is the first time a convicted prisoner has been released under the Obama administration. Having served his two-year sentence in return for pleading guilty, he was released to prove that the US administration will honour its part in plea bargains made with prisoners. On the other hand, while the US is keen to release Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr, who has been free for release since October 2011, the Canadian government is still refusing to implement measures – the writing of a letter requesting his transfer back to the country by Minister Vic Toews – that would see that happen promptly. There are currently 168 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay.
Nine months after Omar Khadr completed his sentence under his plea bargain and was free to return to his native Canada to serve the rest of his sentence for war crimes, he remains in Guantánamo Bay. His release should have been sought at the latest by the end of May. While the US is keen to return 25-year old Khadr to Canada, as it feels that the delay in this case may deter other prisoners from entering plea bargains, Canada on the other hand has not honoured its pledge to seek his return. A mere letter signed by the Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews potentially stands between Khadr and his release. A petition started earlier this month by Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire has attracted more than 28,000 signatures already demanding the Canadian government officially seek his release. You can add your name to the petition at: http://www.change.org/omarkhadr Lawyers for Omar Khadr also started court proceedings in mid-July seeking the court order the government to demand Omar Khadr’s release. The Canadian government has not provided reasons for why it has not yet done this. Instead, in further foot-dragging, Minister Toews wrote to the US government seeking further confidential videos and psychiatric reports to see if Omar Khadr is fit to return to the country. Many consider this to be a further stalling tactic to delay Mr Khadr’s return.
A declassified US Department of Defense report has emerged this month providing further evidence that prisoners held at Guantánamo and other prisoners held under the “war on terror” had been drugged and given powerful antipsychotic drugs in detention and particularly prior to interrogations, impairing their ability to represent the truth. Many prisoners have alleged that they have been forced to take drugs against their will during their imprisonment.
Poland’s investigation into its role in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme and the existence of a secret torture prison outside the village of Stare Kiekuty could lead to the prosecution of high-level military, intelligence and political figures. Although charges have been brought against the former head of intelligence, it is likely that many senior figures were involved and could face prosecution too. Documents have now emerged, according to a Polish senator, that show that a local contractor was asked to build a cage at the village. Other evidence has emerged that the former head of intelligence Zbigniew Siemiatkowski signed a document authorising the setup of the prison.
In mid-July, as part of an ongoing European Union Parliament investigation, EU states complicit in extraordinary rendition were asked to apologise for their role in facilitating the torture and illegal detention of victims. A full report is expected later this year.
Since then, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has demanded that the Polish government hand over the documents mentioned above, which evidence authorisation for the prison to be set up. Lawyers have brought a case at the court against Poland on behalf of Abdul Rahim Al-Nashiri, the Yemeni national currently facing trial at Guantánamo for his alleged role in the bombing of a US warship, the USS Cole, off the coast of Yemen in 2000, who is known to have been waterboarded, among other forms of torture, he faced when he “disappeared” into CIA “black sites” for over 18 months before arriving at Guantánamo Bay. This request coincides with the timing of Al-Nashiri’s trial in the US. The court is also seeking to know whether Poland allowed Al-Nashiri to be tortured and then sent to a country that uses the death penalty, Morocco, which is also a breach of Poland’s international human rights obligations.
Three Kenyan nationals who were kidnapped and “rendered” to Uganda, where they are currently held and face charges for alleged involvement in a bombing in Kampala in 2010, lost their case in the High Court to force the British government to provide evidence that it was complicit and aware of the torture they had faced, so they can use that evidence, of abuse, in their trial. They claim that following their kidnap and “rendition” to Uganda in the summer of 2010, British and American intelligence officers were present while they were tortured to confess during interrogations and were aware of their abuse. Although allowing the prisoners to bring the claim, the trial was heard in partially closed hearings, sections of the trial counsel for the prisoners were not allowed to attend or know what happened during these proceedings, and the final judgment was partly closed as well, meaning that the prisoners and their lawyers do not know the full reason for the judgment made. The government is currently seeking to roll out such secretive court proceedings in its controversial Justice and Security Bill. The judges decided that while the prisoners allege gross abuses of their human rights and face the death penalty, it could not compel the intelligence services to disclose what it knows or what it has done. Furthermore, they did not state whether British intelligence officers were involved in collusion in torture and rendition. This case relates to events in the summer of 2010, some months after the current coalition government took power. Although it is always claimed by the current leadership that torture and rendition collusion were actions of the former Labour government, it has possibly just succeeded in hiding its own involvement in international crimes against humanity.
Earlier this month, lawyers for Yunus Rahmatullah, a Pakistani national held at Bagram since 2004, following his rendition by the British army in Iraq to US force there, took his case to the Supreme Court to force the British government to seek his release from illegal US detention. At the end of last year, the court of appeal ruled his detention illegal and ordered the UK to demand his release; however, foreign office ministers said they had no power to instruct the US to act. Using memoranda of understanding signed by the US and UK militaries on matters including the treatment of prisoners and in light of the Geneva Conventions, lawyers for Mr Rahmatullah, whom both the US and UK have since conceded poses no risk, are seeking to secure his release.
The July “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 4th July and was attended by 7 people. The August demonstration will be held on Thursday 2 August at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park (opposite Marble Arch): http://www.facebook.com/events/338481986231989/
The LGC has started an urgent action of Omar Khadr urging you to add your name to two petitions to the Canadian government and to write letters to Minister Vic Toews and the Canadian High Commission in the UK. More details: http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/take-action-for-omar-khadr-canada-must.html