Friday, November 30, 2012

LGC Newsletter - November 2012

British Residents:
November 24 marked the eleventh anniversary of Shaker Aamer’s capture in Pakistan and illegal detention without trial or charge. In 2001, he was captured and shortly thereafter sold to the US military for a bounty by his captors. He has been held ever since in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, since February 2002, without charge or trial and has been beaten and abused frequently. Supporters from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign marked the anniversary with a vigil in Trafalgar Square. 

Guantánamo Bay:
Barack Obama was re-elected president of the United States for a second term on 6 November. Immediately thereafter, human rights advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others, such as Amnesty International, called on the president to make good on his broken first term promise to close Guantánamo Bay, and to end indefinite detention and drone strikes:
Shortly before the election, Barack Obama reaffirmed on US TV his wish to close Guantánamo Bay in non-specific terms.
Since then, a report published on 27 November by the official Government Accountability Office (GOA), led by Senator Dianne Feinstein, stated that the 166 remaining prisoners could be safely reabsorbed into the US penitentiary system and identified almost 100 facilities in the US mainland where they could be held: Such a move would require legislation and the Department of Justice would not be able to authorise such movement itself.
Since then, however, the Senate has voted to prevent the transfer of any Guantánamo prisoners to the US mainland in the coming year in an amendment proposed to the National Defense Authorization Bill 2013; this bill must be passed every year and the act which resulted in early 2012 saw the introduction of indefinite detention for American citizens.  Human rights groups had written to President Obama before the vote asking him to use his presidential powers to veto the vote if measures were passed to prevent him closing Guantánamo, but senators have voted against it in any case: The final decision, as with the introduction of indefinite detention for US citizens last year, lies with the president himself.
While disputes and wrangling continue over who is to blame for the almost 11-year history of Guantánamo and who is preventing its closure – Congress or the Senate – the actual issue of the on-going detention and abuse of prisoners outside of the known confines of the law is brushed aside. In spite of the “hope” raised by the GOA report, the fact remains that the vast majority of prisoners are not “bad men” and do not need further incarceration but to be repatriated to their countries of origin and their families. Such is the case of both British residents, Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha, who were cleared for released almost 6 years ago, and over 30 Yemeni prisoners, who are prevented from leaving due to a ban on their return to Yemen. The responsibility for that, however, lies with the countries they have come from as well, such as the UK, who should be making greater efforts to repatriate their nationals and residents.

To this end, this month, Yemen’s new president officially demanded the return of 80 prisoners to the country and the repatriation of the body of the late Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, who died at Guantánamo in September. The government said it was dropping the demands the former president, deposed in the Arab Spring, had made for their return. It also rejected attempts to send them to third countries, demanding they be returned to their families.

An autopsy has been carried out on the body of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni prisoner who died at Guantánamo in September this year. The manner of death has been given as suicide but the cause of his death has not been disclosed, although there are alleged inconsistencies with the stories that emerged at the time of his death, for example concerning whether there were signs of self-harm. His body is currently in the process of being returned to his family in Yemen; however, they will not be able to hold an independent autopsy to determine the cause of his death as his organs are reported to have decomposed since his death. The official story on his death, as with those of 8 other prisoners over the past 6 years, remains a mystery:  

Extraordinary rendition:
Two NGOs, the Canadian Centre for International Justice and the American Centre for Constitutional Rights have brought a complaint to the United Nations Committee Against Torture against Canada on behalf of former Guantánamo prisoners Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz for the country’s failure to arrest former US president George W Bush during his visit there last October. The complaint claims that Canada breached its obligations under the Convention Against Torture by failing to arrest and investigate George Bush for his involvement in war crimes against the men in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo, where they were held illegally and tortured.

The British Ministry of Defence has conceded that it cannot hand over prisoners it has captured to the authorities in Afghanistan due to the high risk of torture and abuse in Afghan prisons: There is now a moratorium on the handover of prisoners by British troops. Earlier in the month, on 19 November, Afghan forces took control of Bagram on the order of President Karzai, claiming that the US had failed to honour its side of the agreement on the handover of the prison. While the Afghan authorities have released a number of former prisoners placed under their control over the past 9 months, concerns remain for the 57 foreign nationals the US wishes to retain control over. The move has been welcomed by some human rights NGOs; however conditions of detention by the Afghan authorities are not necessarily better than those of the US:

LGC Activities:
The November monthly LGC demonstration was a special demonstration to mark the US elections on 6 November and was held in solidarity with a number of other grassroots campaigns for human rights with a focus on joint UK-US issues, such as the case of Shaker Aamer and Bradley Manning. The LGC was also joined by a number of outstanding young spoken word artists who made an artistic contribution. Around 50 people attended and showed solidarity. Videos of almost all the speakers are available on the LGC’s YouTube channel:

Next month’s demonstration will exceptionally move to Monday 10th December at 6-8pm to coincide with International Human Rights Day. We invite you to join us in a reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( you may read whichever article you believe to be most relevant. These rights are supposed to apply to all people and all times. Reading not compulsory:  

 The LGC invites you get involved in our action to mark the 11th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay on Friday 11 January 2013. We will be holding a planning meeting in the Café in the Crypt, St Martin’s in the Field Church, off Trafalgar Square (opposite National Gallery) at 2-4pm on Sunday 2 December. For more details on what we are planning and how you can get involved:!/2012/11/your-invitation-to-join-us-to-mark-11.html  Please join us if you can. You can also follow our progress and get involved via Facebook: and Twitter: @allroadsleadG11

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