Thursday, March 28, 2013

LGC Newsletter – March 2013

British Residents:
Names can still be added to the petition calling for Shaker Aamer’s release to Prime Minister David Cameron: 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.

Guantánamo Bay:
The main news that has come out of Guantánamo Bay this month, but which continues to be ignored by the mainstream media, is a hunger strike involving almost all the prisoners. On 6 February, prisoners in Camp 6 with the exception of the weak and elderly, which houses the vast majority of prisoners, went on hunger strike in protest at arbitrary cell searches and confiscation of personal items and mishandling of the Qur’an by interpreters, which they said constituted desecration. This is coupled, according to their lawyers, with increasing despair and desperation for most of the men who are cleared for release but remain there perpetually without charge or trial in their twelfth year. The fear is that death is the only reasonable way out. The hunger strike was brought to the public attention in early March when lawyers for some of the prisoners who had visited Guantánamo Bay wrote to the commander there seeking the demands of the hunger strikers be acquiesced:  The official response has been denial. All the lawyers representing prisoners then wrote to the Defense Secretary on 14 March. Neither letter has been responded to. Instead of admitting to the hunger strike, the US Defense Department admitted that it had fired rubber bullets, a potentially lethal riot control method, at prisoners, hitting one, on 2 January: The lawyers corroborate the increasingly worse conditions reported by their clients.
Initially putting the number of hunger strikers at 6, who have been force fed for over a year, the US military has since retracted and the official number has now gone up to 31 with over 8 being force fed to keep them alive and at least four having collapsed due to exhaustion and dehydration. Lawyers put the number of hunger strikers at closer to 130.
At a hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on 14 March, a senior lawyer for the US government denied that there was even any “indefinite detention” of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay:
A senior US military official General John Kelly has put the hunger strike down to “frustration” by the prisoners and has instead asked the Pentagon for $195 million to upgrade facilities at the prison, to improve facilities for soldiers serving there and the camp that houses high-value prisoners, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohamed:
There has been NO discussion throughout on how to close the camp and release the prisoners, or attempts to address their demands. Plans have also been announced to restrict the access lawyers have to their clients and civilian flights to Guantánamo Bay, meaning that lawyers, journalists and others monitoring trials, etc. will only be able to travel there with the military.
Into its fiftieth day, it is only now that this hunger strike is starting to reach the mainstream media, which has consistently failed to report it, including those that consider themselves more liberal. The Red Cross, the only independent organisation which has access to the prisoners, has also failed to monitor the situation. Having last visited the prison in mid-February, it has now brought forward a visit to the prison scheduled for next month due to the severity of the hunger strike: The Red Cross is supposed to provide independent monitoring of the health and weight of prisoners involved in such cases and to track possible abuses.
The countries the prisoners come from, including the UK with respect to Shaker Aamer, have not responded to the hunger strike either.
Solidarity actions have been held in the UK and US.
Russia Today has been following developments closely and has produced the following up-to-date timeline of actions and events: The LGC spoke to Russia Today on 17 March, the same day as a protest organised by the LGC took place in London.
Other media on this news:

Release from Guantánamo Bay, however, can result in further imprisonment and abuse elsewhere, often in the home country.
Omar Khadr: who returned to Canada in September last year is now being represented once more by intrepid lawyer Dennis Edney. Having only resumed representation of Omar Khadr a few weeks ago, Mr Edney has already been on television and has spoken to the print media in Canada to oppose the official and closed narrative concerning Omar Khadr being a “convicted terrorist”. Mr Edney will soon appeal Omar Khadr’s conviction at Guantánamo. Funds are needed to ensure that Dennis Edney can do this work – take on court cases and visit Omar Khadr at the Milhaven Institution. The international Free Omar Khadr campaign has set up a facility for individuals to donate to these costs via Paypal:

Rasul Kudaev: a 35-year old Russian national who was returned to Russia from Guantánamo Bay in 2004. Arrested while travelling through Afghanistan en route to Pakistan by the Taleban who accused him of being a Russian spy, he was held at Guantánamo Bay for two years after the US accused him of fighting for the Taleban and when returned to Russia, he was arrested following militant attacks on military installations in his regional capital and accused of involvement in an armed group and spying for the US and UK. After almost 8 years of pre-trial detention, and having suffered much physical abuse there, as well as health complications from poor medical care and injuries from his time in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Rasul Kudaev’s case finally came to trial this week. He should have been given an opportunity to provide his own defence on Monday 25 or Tuesday 26 March but he has instead been banned from the court and denied all rights to a fair trial in Russia’s longest-running court case, involving a staggering 59 defendants. To read more about Rasul Kudaev’s harrowing story and this case in which judgment is finally expected later this year, please read:

Extraordinary rendition:
Following the controversial handover of Bagram prison in Afghanistan to the Afghan authorities last year which was blighted by questions over detention without trial and the fate of over 50 foreign prisoners who have been held without charge or trial for over a decade and are largely victims of extraordinary rendition, the US and Afghanistan signed a new memorandum of understanding which took force to officially hand over Bagram to Afghan control on 25 March. The Afghan authorities had already released a large number of Afghans held there without charge last year. Of the over 3000 prisoners held there when the prison was transferred last year, more than half have been released. Afghanistan has also negotiated the handover of Afghan Taleban prisoners; however, the US will maintain control over the 50 non-Afghan nationals who were held at Bagram. With the exclusion of these prisoners, prisoners under British control remain the only prisoners in Afghanistan held by a foreign country.

Abu Zubaydah, who was held at a secret prison in Poland from December 2002 to September 2003, before being rendered elsewhere and then taken to Guantánamo Bay has filed a case against Poland at the European Court of Human Rights for its delay in investigating his claims of torture and extraordinary rendition. The claim has been brought due to Poland’s slow progress in its own investigation, which has taken over two years so far and has stalled considerably in recent months.

LGC Activities:
The March LGC “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was attended by 3 people. The next demonstration will be on Thursday 4 April 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 demonstration will be in solidarity with the Guantánamo hunger strikers.

On 17 March, Aisha Maniar from the LGC spoke to Russia Today about the hunger strike, stating that awareness about the hunger strike, […] has more or less – at least in Britain – been ignored by the mainstream media.
On the same day, the LGC held a demonstration outside the US Embassy in London in solidarity with the hunger strikers. On a cold and wet day, around 30 people joined to show their solidarity. Speakers from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, the Stop The War Coalition, Muna Othman, a Yemeni journalist, and spoken word artist Ibrahim Sincere spoke at the event.

Activists from the LGC also helped out and spoke at a conference organised by Birkbeck College and SOAS Stop The War Societies on 20 March. During the day, activists helped to collect signatures on the e-petition for Shaker Aamer and raised awareness about the plight of the prisoners with video showings and speeches. In the evening, the LGC contributed to a panel discussion on “Guantanamo and the Secret War on Terror”: (pictures) and (videos)

Please watch out for details of more hunger strike solidarity actions and get in touch with us to get involved!

 Pictures of LGC actions copyrighted. May be reused and reproduced free of charge WITH permission.

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