Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Newsletter - October 2012

British Residents:
Documents from Guantánamo Bay declassified in September show that Shaker Aamer is continuing to suffer abuse and was beaten up by guards as recently as April this year for refusing to return to his cell, where he is held for up to 22 hours a day, after exercise. His lawyers have also confirmed that during visits, he shows visible signs of having been beaten. Shaker Aamer further claims that following visits from his lawyers, he is often beaten up by soldiers. The Metropolitan police are continuing investigations into claims that MI6 were present when he was tortured in Afghanistan, and interrogated him in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay. 

Guantánamo Bay:
The credibility of the military commission system at Guantánamo Bay was struck a harsh blow when the conviction of Salim Hamdan, a former Yemeni prisoner convicted in 2009, was overturned by a US federal appeals court. Mr Hamdan, who had worked as a driver for Osama Bin Laden, was charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. He was convicted of the latter charges, but following his capture in Afghanistan in 2001, he had already served his 66-month sentence by the time he was convicted and was released and returned to Yemen in 2009. The court overturned the conviction as the offence of “providing material support for terrorism” did not exist as a war crime at the time the charges were brought. The 2006 Military Commissions Act, creating military tribunals at Guantánamo, did not allow for Mr Hamdan to be tried retrospectively for an offence that did not exist at the time. In making his judgment, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said, “If the government wanted to charge Hamdan with aiding and abetting terrorism or some other war crime that was sufficiently rooted in the international law of war at the time of Hamdan's conduct, it should have done so”. Salim Hamdan admitted to working for Osama Bin Laden during his trial, but said that he was working for a wage and not to wage war. The ruling raises questions about other convictions at Guantánamo Bay. The day following this ruling, Australian David Hicks said that he would be appealing his conviction too.  

In mid-October, pre-trial hearings resumed in the case of five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York. This is the first time they have appeared in court in over 5 months. All five men, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “disappeared” into secret CIA-run jails for several years before being taken to Guantánamo Bay and face the death penalty if convicted. The procedural issues discussed included secrecy during the hearings. At the earliest, the actual trials are not expected to start before next summer, almost 12 years after the attacks.

Wikileaks has started the release of more than 100 classified or restricted files from the US Department of Defense relating to procedures on prisoner handling in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay. These documents can be accessed at:  

In further pre-trial hearings in his case, Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, accused of plotting an attack on a US warship in the Gulf of Aden in Yemen in 2000, threatened to boycott his trial due to mistreatment by US soldiers, unnecessary aggression and the requirement that he wears shackles during the hearing. Mr Al-Nashiri, who currently has a case at European Court of Human Rights against Poland for its involvement in his torture there, where he was allegedly waterboarded, faces the death penalty if convicted. He did not attend the first day of the hearing. At the hearing, his lawyers urged the judge to drop the charges against him and try him before a civil court, as Yemen and the US were not engaged in hostilities at the time, meaning that his actions did not constitute war crimes.

Extraordinary rendition:
The first evidence has been filed by lawyers in the criminal case of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami Al-Saadi, who were rendered to Libya in 2004 with the direct help of the UK intelligence services. Former foreign secretary Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen, a former senior MI6 officer, have been named in the evidence as defendants. As well as describing the torture the two men and their families faced, the documents state that both the government and the intelligence services knew and were aware of the risk of torture.

Yunus Rahmatullah, a Pakistani prisoner held at Bagram Prison in Afghanistan without charge or trial since 2004, following his arrest and handover to the US military by the British army in Iraq, was subject to a British Supreme Court ruling on 31 October. Lawyers for Mr Rahmatullah in the UK, acting on behalf of his family, brought a case against the British government to compel it to seek his release, as under a memorandum of understanding between the US and UK (one of the documents recently released by Wikileaks), he continued to remain under British control. The court of appeal had previously upheld this - his right to habeas corpus - and ordered the government to seek his immediate release. The US government refused to cooperate, as Pakistan has also sought his release and he is a Pakistani national. Cleared for released more than 2 years ago and one of several prisoners whose release Pakistan has sought, it is unclear why Mr Rahmatullah continues to be held at Bagram. In its ruling, the Supreme Court upheld his right to be released but agreed with the government that it had no power to order this from the US and that it could effectively do nothing. His lawyers, however, maintain that his handover was a breach of the Geneva Conventions and that the UK is accused of war crimes in his case, which is currently being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.

LGC Activities:
The October “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 4th October and was attended by 6 people. This demonstration was held in support of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, two British nationals from south London, who lost their appeal and were extradited to the US the next day:
Next month’s demonstration will exceptionally move to Tuesday 6th November at 6-8pm to coincide with the US elections, with speakers and spoken word. Please join us if you can:

The LGC's 26th June action to mark international day in support of victims of torture features on the cover of a new report by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). See also page 28 for further information about our "London Says "No to Torture" action:  Many thanks to everyone who took part in that action.

The London Guantánamo Campaign is currently setting up its action to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay on 11th January 2013. Under the heading of “All Roads Lead to Guantánamo", we are planning a day of action taking in actions outside embassies involved in the journey of prisoners to Guantánamo, culminating in a vigil outside the US Embassy. We will be holding a planning meeting on Saturday 10th November at 2-4pm in the basement café in Westminster Central Hall. Please join us if you can. You can also follow our progress and get involved via Facebook: and Twitter: @allroadsleadG11

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Demonstration: Truth, Justice and the American Way? 6 November

On the day of the US Presidential Elections, the
London Guantánamo Campaign invites you to join us at a demonstration


Outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, W1A 1AE
On Tuesday, 6 November, 6-8pm
to protest ongoing abuses of human rights and collusion between the British and US governments

Speakers include:
Hamja Ahsan (Free Talha Ahsan Campaign)
Joy Hurcombe (Save Shaker Aamer Campaign)
Ilyas Townsend (Justice for Aafia Campaign)
Anthony Timmons (WISE Up for Bradley Manning)

Aviva Stahl (Cageprisoners)

Dr Shahrar Ali (Green Party)

Chris Nineham (Stop The War Coalition)
Speaker from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
Poets: Mizan the Poet, Ibrahim Sincere, Ed Greens

For more details: e-mail

N.B. This demonstration replaces our regular monthly demonstration for November

Monday, October 01, 2012

LGC Newsletter – September 2012

British Residents:
Having previously refused to disclose the names of prisoners cleared for release, the US Justice Department issued a list of 55 prisoners, including Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha, on Friday 21 September. Although a partial list of the 86 prisoners approved for transfer several years ago but who continue to be held at Guantánamo Bay for a number of reasons, civil liberties organisations in the US have hailed this unexpected disclosure as a positive step. A previous request for disclosure was turned down in 2009. While the release of this list does not equate to the release of the prisoners or that the US has no objections to their release, it should facilitate the process of campaigning for them. In the case of Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha, there are clearly no reasons for them to remain at Guantánamo and the British government has no reason not to seek their return. (includes a link to Amnesty USA action to US government to return Shaker Aamer to the UK)

Guantánamo Bay:
On 8 September, 36-year old Yemeni prisoner Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif became the ninth prisoner to die at Guantánamo Bay. The US military withheld his identity for several days. He had travelled to Pakistan, where he was captured, for medical treatment following a car accident that he could not afford in his own country. Having pleaded his innocence all along, he won his habeas corpus case before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2010; the judge ordered the Obama administration to “take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps to facilitate Latif's release forthwith” and stated that the US government had failed to demonstrate any connections with Al Qaeda or its associates. Following disclosures by Wikileaks, it later emerged that he had been cleared for release by the US military as early as 2006. Letters to his lawyer revealing his despair at his ongoing and apparently perpetual detention were reported in the media after his death. The cause of death remains unknown.,0,4034278.story

Omar Khadr turned 26 in Guantánamo Bay on 19 September. Earlier in the month, Minister of Public Security, Vic Toews, received the video materials and psychiatric reports he had requested of the US government to decide whether to seek Omar Khadr’s repatriation. The Huffington Post ( later reported that Omar Khadr would be returned to Canada before the US elections. This was denied by the Canadian government, however in a final twist in this protracted matter, Omar Khadr finally returned to Canada on Saturday 29 September. Upon his return he was taken to the Milhaven detention institute where he remains in a cell for 23 hours a day and where he will serve out the remaining 6 years of his 8 year sentence, having pleaded guilty to the killing of an American soldier in a secret plea bargain before a military tribunal at Guantánamo in 2010. However, Omar Khadr will be due to be considered for parole in May 2013. Having acquiesced to one of its citizens appearing before the much-criticised and flawed military tribunal regime at Guantánamo in 2010, the Canadian government continues to insist that Omar Khadr is a “terrorist”, even though he was not given a fair trial under any recognised definition of the term. 166 prisoners remain at Guantánamo.

Extraordinary rendition:
The American human rights NGO, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has published a major new report on rendition and Libya, claiming that the CIA tortured opponents of the Gaddafi regime before rendering them to Libya where they faced further abuse. Based on interviews with 14 survivors and MI6 and CIA documents obtained by the NGO in Libya last year, the report states that the use of waterboarding was more far extensive than claimed by the US government and that the scope of the abuse carried out by the CIA itself under the guise of extraordinary rendition is far broader than admitted. The report can be read at:

In early September, control of Bagram prison in Afghanistan was handed over from the US to the Afghan authorities in a low-key ceremony; the US, however, is maintaining control of hundreds of prisoners at the facility, now known as the Parwan Detention Centre, whom it claims are “high-value prisoners”, including around 50 foreign nationals, such as Pakistani rendition victim Yunus Rahmatullah. The US intends to hand control of all prison facilities and prisoners to the Afghan authorities by 2014. The decision to maintain control over prisoners has angered the Afghan authorities and the actual terms of the handover are unclear. More than 3000 prisoners are currently held at Bagram without trial or charge.

The British government’s proposals to prevent civil cases concerning torture claims coming to court through the use of secret courts have been condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Prof. Juan Mendez, in a talk he gave in London, stating that this “hampers the ability to deal effectively with torture”. These measures, currently proposed in the Justice and Security Bill would prevent cases seeking disclosure of the government’s involvement in extraordinary rendition and torture abroad, such as the Binyam Mohamed case and the case brought by former Guantánamo prisoners, being heard in open court, effectively denying justice for torture victims and immunity for state agents potentially involved in crimes against humanity.  

On 11 September, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted unanimously to back a new report by parliamentarians, calling for EU members to investigate allegations of complicity in extraordinary rendition and for member states to be held accountable. The report and the parliament called on Lithuania, Poland and Romania to reopen independent investigations into their collusion through hosting torture facilities. The report criticised the current Polish criminal investigation for its lack of transparency. French Green MEP Hélène Flautre called on EU states to “"openly acknowledge that these abuses took place and take measures to address them." British Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford called on the EU to “have the guts and self-respect to enforce accountability for its own members' involvement in human rights abuses”. The report is non-binding and opposition MEPs accused the report of being based on allegations.

The Italian Court of Cassation, the highest criminal court in the country, upheld the convictions of 23 Americans tried in absentia of involvement in the abduction and rendition to torture of Egyptian imam Osama Mustafa Nasr in Milan in 2003. With the help of two Italian intelligence agents, he was taken to a Milan airport and then rendered to torture in Egypt via a NATO base in Germany. Released four years later, he claimed he had been tortured. Following a 3-year trial, the 23 Americans, 22 of whom were held by the court to be CIA agents, were convicted and given 7-9 year sentences. The court also ordered damaged be paid to the victim and his family. The Italian government is now likely to seek the retrial of the two Italians involved and the extradition of the Americans, who face arrest if travelling in Europe. This decision is the final ruling in the first ever court case concerning extraordinary rendition. A lawyer for the Americans accused the decision of undermining diplomatic immunity.
LGC Activities:
The September “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 6th September and was attended by 10 people. The October demonstration will be held on Thursday 4 October at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park (opposite Marble Arch).

The London Guantánamo Campaign is currently in the process of setting up its action to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the current incarnation of Guantánamo Bay as a prison camp in January 2013. Under the heading of “All Roads Lead to Guantánamo", we are planning a day of action taking in actions outside embassies involved in the journey of prisoners to Guantánamo, culminating in a vigil outside the US Embassy. Please get involved and help us to plan and carry out the action on the day, Friday 11th January 2013. You can follow our progress and get involved via Facebook: and Twitter: @allroadsleadG11