Thursday, August 29, 2013

LGC Newsletter – August 2013

British Residents:
Singer PJ Harvey has released a song entitled “Shaker Aamer” to raise awareness about the case of the last Londoner held in Guantánamo Bay.
You can hear the track here:

Shaker Aamer protest outside New Scotland Yard
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign held a series of protests around London to raise awareness about Shaker Aamer’s case, with protests outside MI6 headquarters New Scotland Yard and the steps of St Martin’s-in-the-Field in Trafalgar Square.

Guantánamo Bay:
Two prisoners were returned to Algeria on 29 August. The two men, Nabil Hadjarab, 34, and Mouati Sayab, 37, were among the first prisoners taken to Guantánamo Bay in 2002 and are the first to be released in almost one year. Neither had ever faced any charges or trial. There are no details yet about what has happened to them since their return to Algeria, however prisoners returned to the country are often held incommunicado for up to two weeks. Algeria does not give any assurances that it will not torture or persecute prisoners returned to the country. Former returnees have seen themselves subject to harassment, unfair trials and further imprisonment. Algeria is not a safe country for prisoners to return to, which is why prisoners such as former British resident Ahmed Belbacha have preferred to remain at Guantánamo Bay. Nabil Hadjarab had been one of the hunger striking prisoners and was force fed. The number of prisoners is now 164 and this latest move demonstrates that Barack Obama can free prisoners without being blocked by Congress when he wishes to.

At the end of August, the number of prisoners still on hunger strike is reported to be 36, with 32 being force fed by nasal tube. The hunger strike, however, which will shortly enter its seventh month and which has now been ongoing for longer than 200 days, is no closer to ending. Many prisoners temporarily ended their hunger strike during the Muslim month of fasting Ramadan, which ended on 8 August. The US military considers a prisoner to be on hunger strike when they have skipped 9 consecutive meals, thus if prisoners are taking the odd meal here and there, they are not considered to be on hunger strike.

According to a new report by investigative journalist Jason Leopold, “The U.S. Department of Defense has been urged to rescreen all Guantanamo prisoners to determine whether heavy doses of an anti-malarial drug administered at the facility between January 2002 and mid-2005 caused brain damage. The drug, mefloquine, was tagged last month with an FDA [US Food and Drug Administration] warning of possible side effects that range from depression and anxiety to psychosis and even suicide.” The FDA’s updated warning states: “Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or vertigo, tinnitus, and loss of balance have been reported. These adverse reactions may occur early in the course of mefloquine use and in some cases have been reported to continue for months or years after mefloquine has been stopped. Psychiatric symptoms ranging from anxiety, paranoia, and depression, to hallucinations and psychotic behavior, can occur with mefloquine use […] Cases of suicidal ideation and suicide have been reported.” It has also been recommended that the seven so-called cases of “suicide” at Guantánamo Bay are reinvestigated to determine whether the deaths were linked to mefloquine. The recommended dose is 250 milligrams for an adult with malaria, whereas each prisoner transferred there was administered 1250 milligrams, and there were only two reported cases of malaria in the period.
Many prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay have complained about being forced to take different kinds of drugs against their will over the years of their detention.

Pre-trial hearings continued this month in the cases of five prisoners accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001 and the case of Abd Al-Nashiri, accused of involvement in the bombing of US military vessels off the coast of Yemen in 2000. All six men face the death penalty. Arguments related to what evidence can be revealed to the defendants, their role in the trials and their lawyers’ ability to represent them as a result. Problems with technological facilities were also raised. Real trials in both cases are expected to start next year.

The latest installation of the popular Splinter Cell computer game franchise, Blacklist, involves a sequence where protagonist and super-spy Sam Fisher breaks into Guantánamo Bay posing as a prisoner, allowing players to torture prisoners. The visuals of the game provide a close look at the prison camp and as with all games in the series, a highly biased pro-US military slant.
A view of the level can be seen at:  

LGC Activities:
August "Shut Down Guantánamo" demonstration
The August monthly “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration took place on 1 August and was a solidarity demonstration with the dozens of prisoners on hunger strike in California against the state’s policy of using long-term solitary confinement as a means of punishment for prisoners, sometimes extending decades with serious physiological and psychological consequences. Solitary confinement is also used at Guantánamo Bay. Ten people attended this demonstration.
The September demonstration will be at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, opposite Marble Arch, Hyde Park, on Thursday 5 September:    

Dan Viesnik from the London Guantánamo Campaign spoke to Russia Today about the ongoing hunger strike and the repressive measures taken to deal with it on 1st August:

Val Brown from the London Guantánamo Campaign spoke at the CND’s annual Hiroshima Day event in Tavistock Square on 6th August to mark the 68th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima in Japan:

The London Guantánamo Campaign marked the 200th day of the current Guantánamo hunger strike with a brief action at the Notting Hill Carnival in west London and an online Twitter storm, which trended at number 5 in the UK for a while. Activists from the Campaign against American Bases also held a vigil outside NSA Menwith Hill, a US army base.

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