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

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