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

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