Wednesday, January 30, 2013

LGC Newsletter – January 2013

British Residents:
To mark the eleventh anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay on 11 January, Amnesty International UK launched a new petition calling on President Obama to release Shaker Aamer. The petition which currently has around 20,000 signatures will be delivered to the US authorities on 14 February, the date marking the eleventh anniversary of Shaker Aamer’s imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial. The petition can be signed here. The e-petition to the British Prime Minister currently has around 23,000 signatures: This petition can be signed until 20 April 2013; 100,000 signatures on the petition will lead to a debate on this issue in Parliament.
The human rights NGO Reprieve, representing Shaker Aamer, marked the 11th anniversary with a press release calling for his release:

Guantánamo Bay:
Canadian former prisoner Omar Khadr, convicted at a Guantánamo military tribunal and who is currently serving the rest of his sentence at the Milhaven Institution in Canada as a maximum security prisoner, has recently reappointed his former lawyer Dennis Edney: Mr Edney previously represented Omar Khadr when he was held at Guantánamo Bay. He will take over from his previous lawyers in a case in which he is suing the government for breach of his human rights. Mr Edney is also likely to appeal Omar Khadr’s conviction at Guantánamo obtained through a secret plea bargain, following the recent quashing of other convictions in Guantánamo military tribunals by the US federal appeals courts. Although Omar Khadr is eligible for day parole from March this year, as he is currently being held as a maximum security prisoner, he is unlikely to be considered for parole for another two years.
A new petition has been put together calling on the Canadian government to release Omar Khadr and seeking his reintegration into Canadian society: sign here:

It has been a busy month in the US courts for appeals against convictions at Guantánamo Bay and the resumption of the trial at Guantánamo Bay of five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York in September 2001.  
On 25 January, the federal appeals court overturned the conviction of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a Yemeni prisoner convicted by a Guantánamo military tribunal in 2008 and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this case, in a brief judgment with no reasons given, convictions for material support for terrorism, conspiracy and solicitation to commit war crimes were overturned. The only person to have ever been given a life sentence out of the seven prisoners convicted at Guantánamo Bay, he has been held alone and away from other prisoners following his conviction. He will remain locked up in solitary confinement throughout the three-month period the US government has to appeal.
This reversal of a Guantánamo military tribunal conviction follows that of Salim Hamdan, which was overturned in October 2012, as the offence of “providing material support for terrorism” did not exist at the time of the actual offence. The US government had until 18 January to appeal this decision, but did not. The question of whether the judgment in the Hamdan case could apply to other cases was one of the issues considered in the Al-Bahlul case.
At the end of January, the cases of five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001 resumed at Guantánamo Bay. Although still at pre-trial stage, the key Hamdan ruling has also had an impact on this case. Anticipating the possible overturning of the conviction for conspiracy, which is not considered a war crime, the chief prosecutor in this case Brigadier General Mark Martins asked for the conspiracy charges against the five defendants in the case to be dismissed and for them not to be tried on this count. Although dismissing these charges could undermine the rest of the case, following the judgment in the Hamdan case, a conviction for conspiracy could be appealed and later result in the case, and a conviction made, being thrown out. The five defendants potentially face the death penalty. This request was turned down by the Pentagon. Undeterred, however, Mark Martins has applied again, following the reversal of the Al-Bahlul conviction, which saw a conviction for conspiracy overturned. This has led to a public dispute between the prosecutor it appointed and the Pentagon over whether the US can charge terrorism suspects with offences that are not considered as such under international law. An excellent comment on this in the New York Times:
The pre-trial hearings resumed on 28 January. The defendants attended the first day, during which controversy arose after audio to observers at the hearing was cut for three minutes after one of the defence lawyers representing the five prisoners asked if the court needed to meet in secret closed session to discuss some matters, raising questions about whether there is external censorship of the proceedings unknown to those in court: Pre-trials motions will be discussed all of this week, including a motion by the defence to have the black site secret prisons the five men were held at in various locations around the world, including within the European Union, preserved as evidence.

As well as marking the eleventh anniversary of the opening of the current prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, this month also marked the inauguration of Barack Obama to his second term as president of the United States. The London Guantánamo Campaign issued the following press release:!/2013/01/media-release-london-guantanamo.html, calling on the president to “use this opportunity to put right his failings in his first term as president and demonstrate his commitment to the rule of law and the principles of freedom and justice he verbally espouses”.
In the US, the re-inauguration was marred by controversy when at a party to celebrate the inauguration, famous US rap star Lupe Fiasco openly criticised President Obama on his poor first-term record on foreign relations, particularly with respect to war and the Palestinians:
In the UK, veteran peace campaigner Lindis Percy from the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) was arrested outside the US military base at Menwith Hill for holding up an upside down US flag with the words ‘NOW THEN….SECOND AND ONLY CHANCE OBAMA’ Ms Percy has been bailed but not charged.
Barely weeks into his second term, President Obama has continued to show his resolve not to close Guantánamo by closing the office of the special envoy for the closure of Guantánamo Bay. Daniel Fried, who has held the post since it was created in 2009 early on in President Obama’s first term, has been re-assigned to another office and the office he was responsible for has closed. Its duties, which including working out diplomatic agreements for the transfer of prisoners, have been reassigned to the office of the State Department’s legal adviser. The removal of a senior official responsible for this task almost immediately into President Obama’s second term shows that the issue is no longer of priority to his administration, in spite of his verbal statements that he would still like to see Guantánamo Bay close:  

Extraordinary rendition:
Lawyers for two men held at secret torture facilities in Poland in 2003 and 2004, where they were tortured and subject, among other abuses, to waterboarding and mock executions have accused the Polish government of stalling the investigation into Poland’s role in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme to protect the collusion of senior politicians and officials. The investigation into the allegations made by two current Guantánamo prisoners Abd El-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, who both “disappeared” for years and currently have cases against Poland and Romania pending at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for involvement in their torture, started in 2008. However, last year, the case was transferred from prosecutors in the capital to regional authorities. The European Parliament has also accused Poland of not doing enough to investigate, even though credible evidence has emerged, including documents, of the existence of a secret torture facility and receipts and agreements relating to its operation on behalf of the CIA:

On 29 January, lawyers for almost 1000 prisoners held by the British forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2008 brought a judicial review before the High Court in London to call for an inquiry into allegations of abuse by British soldiers. These allegations include claims of sexual and physical abuse by soldiers. The claimants want the inquiry to demonstrate that Britain broke the international laws of war through the systematic use of torture. The Ministry of Defence has tried to block such an inquiry for the past few years and insists, as it did in the Baha Moussa case, that any abuse was the action of a few bad apples in the army and not the result of an endemic and systemic culture of torture and abuse, in spite of almost 1000 victim testimonies to the contrary. As the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War approaches, permission for this inquiry could be both timely and vital: and

LGC Activities:
There was no monthly “Shut Guantánamo!” demonstration in January. The next demonstration will on Thursday 7 February at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, W1A and then 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch (Hyde Park): This action marks the sixth anniversary (first one in February 2007) of our regular demonstrations outside the US Embassy. We said we’d continue our presence until Guantánamo closes. From the above news, it is clear that President Barack Obama has no intention of fulfilling his promise to close Guantánamo any time soon. Please join us: inspired by an action held by the US NGO Witness Against Torture (, the LGC will hold a “I am still waiting for…” action outside the US Embassy: We invite you to join us with your own banner, or we’ll provide paper and markers, stating what you are still waiting for vis-à-vis the closure of Guantánamo. If you cannot join the action, we invite you to make your own banner, pose with it, and send the picture to us:

The London Guantánamo Campaign marked the 11th anniversary of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay with a day of action on Friday 11 January. The actions consisted of four walking tours between embassies recounting the journeys of four prisoners to Guantánamo Bay and a vigil outside the US Embassy on a fairly cold evening attended by over 70 people. Many thanks to everyone who took part, helped in the preparations and on the day.
The actions were covered live through social media and received extensive press coverage too.
To coincide with the anniversary, Aisha Maniar and Val Brown from the LGC gave interviews to Russia Today:
Media coverage of the tours and vigil:

Coverage of the tours:
Photographs of Shaker Aamer tour:
Val Brown leading the Omar Khadr tour shot footage of readings from outside each of the embassies the tour visited: (Afghan Embassy) (Spanish Embassy) (Portuguese Embassy) (Canadian Embassy)
Around 70 people braved the cold weather and joined the vigil in the evening outside the US Embassy:
Video report:
News reports: (Arabic)
Photo reportage:
Pictures from protests around the world:
Messages of support read outside the US Embassy:
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavillion and Hove): “There is no excuse for the continued existence of Guantanamo Bay or the ongoing detention of British residents such as Shaker Aamer. The Green Party calls on President Obama to keep his promise and end what is a stain on America’s reputation globally.”
Green London MEP Jean Lambert: "11 years too long! Guantanamo Bay must close, and all remaining detainees charged with crimes or allowed to return home."
Lib Dem London MEP Sarah Ludford: "“Barack Obama must finally in his second term fulfil his promise of closing the disgraceful legal black hole of Guantanamo and rebuild the US’ human rights reputation. In any case, my constituent Shaker Aamer must return home to his family in London after 11 years of totally illegal incarceration.”

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