Friday, November 29, 2013

LGC Newsletter – November 2013

British Residents:
LGC monthly demo, 7 November
Shaker Aamer’s wife, father-in-law and daughter met with Foreign Secretary William Hague in early November to discuss progress on efforts to release him to the UK. Mr Hague wrote to Shaker Aamer last month; he has received the letter and replied. His MP Jane Ellison has also recently met American ambassador Matthew Barzun to discuss cooperation on his case.

On 17 November, CBS TV show 60 Minutes showed interviews and footage of Guantánamo Bay which included Shaker Aamer shouting out to reporters: “Please we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace or either tell the world the truth. Open up the place, let the world come and visit!” He also added: “You cannot walk even half a metre without being chained. Is that a human being? That's the treatment of an animal.

rally for Shaker Aamer
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign held a march and rally for Shaker Aamer to mark 12 years of his detention in Battersea on 23 November. Several dozen people joined the march and the rally was well attended, with speakers including politicians John McDonnell MP, MEP Jean Lambert and a representative from Jane Ellison MP’s office, journalists Victoria Brittain and Andy Worthington, and organisations such as the CND and STWC. Aisha Maniar from the LGC addressed the rally, singling out the media for its failure to report on Shaker Aamer’s case or what happens at Guantánamo Bay, and its partial and inaccurate reporting when it does. The rally was poorly attended by mainstream media, who are largely responsible for the fact that few people know about Shaker Aamer’s plight and that of the other 163 prisoners.
Media from the day:

Guantánamo Bay:
Although the US military officially declared the mass hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay to have ended in September, having fallen to 11 prisoners on hunger strike and being force fed at the beginning of this month, that number has recently started to rise again to 15, all of whom are being force fed, according to the Miami Herald newspaper, which has been tracking the hunger strike:

A new report, Ethics Abandoned, published on 4 November by a 20-person independent panel of health experts accused doctors and psychologists working in the US military and CIA detention centres of having “violated standard ethical principles and medical standards to avoid infliction of harm. The Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers (see attached) concludes that since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense (DoD) and CIA improperly demanded that U.S. military and intelligence agency health professionals collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in U.S. custody.
The report lists practices that include the “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of prisoners, and recommends that medical practitioners follow professional codes of ethics and that their professional and governing bodies strengthen their commitment to such ethics.

Former prisoners Australian David Hicks and Canadian Omar Khadr, who were both convicted by a military tribunal, have formally started proceedings to appeal their convictions in the US courts. David Hicks was held at Guantánamo Bay for 5 years and was convicted on material support charges, which last year a US federal appeals court found to be a retroactive application of a law that did not exist at the time, in the successful appeal filed by former Bin Laden driver, Salim Hamdan.
Omar Khadr, the only person since World War II to have been convicted before a war crimes tribunal for offences committed as a minor, was held in Guantánamo Bay for almost 10 years, before being released to Canada in September 2012, where he is serving the rest of his sentence. Hicks too was detained upon his return to Australia and the governments of both Commonwealth countries were complicit in the prolonged ordeal of their citizens at Guantánamo Bay. Both men argue that a plea bargain was their only way out of Guantánamo Bay. Hicks has argued that he entered an “Alford plea” whereby, in US law, he pleaded guilty to an offence in a criminal court but he did not admit the act and asserts his innocence. David Hicks spoke about his case and the lasting impact of Guantánamo to Australian TV:
Although in Hicks’ case, the court has allowed the case fully, Khadr’s case could drag on for much longer as the court has asked first for consideration of whether or not the case can even be brought, given that part of the plea bargain was that he would not appeal the secret deal. Although Hicks’ case involved a similar clause, his lawyers claim it was not binding.

As well as launching this US appeal, Omar Khadr has launched an appeal in the Canadian courts against the decision not to transfer him to a federal prison. He has been held in maximum security facilities since his return to the country. His lawyer, Dennis Edney, is appealing on the basis that the judge ““erred in his interpretation” of International Transfer of Offenders Act when he denied Khadr’s request to be transferred to a provincial jail”. Khadr’s lawyers argue that his detention is illegal as he committed the offences as a minor and his detention should be considered on that basis.

Award-winning jazz musician, composer and singer Esperanza Spalding has released a new music video “We Are America” in response to the ongoing abuse of prisoners and the hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay. In the video, she is joined by fellow musicians Stevie Wonder, Janelle Morae and Harry Belafonte. You can hear her catchy message for justice and freedom here, and read an interview in which she explains why she recorded the track:

Some political progress has been made on closing Guantánamo this month with the recently appointed envoys for the closure of Guantánamo Clifford Sloan and Paul Lewis visiting the facility and on 25 November, the US Senate passed amendments to the military authorisation bill that would make it easier for Barack Obama to transfer prisoners to the US and abroad.

Following years of similar reports, it has now been admitted that the CIA ran a secret prison within Guantánamo called “Penny Lane”, after the Beatles’ song, which served as a facility to turn prisoners into double agents working for the CIA after early release.

Extraordinary Rendition
The African Commission of Human Rights heard its first court case concerning extraordinary rendition on 1 November. Sitting in Gambia, and hearing a case brought before the court against Djibouti by a Yemeni national, 49-year old businessman Mohammed Abdullah Saleh al-Asad, who was kidnapped in Tanzania (where he resided) in 2003, “rendered” and tortured by CIA interrogators in Djibouti and Afghanistan, before being returned to Yemen in 2005 after the CIA realised he has no connections to terrorism. The Yemeni authorities continued to hold him until mid-2006.
Similar to the cases of Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Nashiri, both currently facing trial and potentially the death penalty at Guantánamo Bay, against Poland for torture and facilitating rendition, which will be heard on 3 December by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), such courts offer the only avenue for victims to seek redress. Such actions would be impossible against the US directly, in view of the “state secrets doctrine”, which would block any case being brought. Instead, victims are resorting to courts with broader jurisdictions to make claims against states that colluded with the US. States such as Poland have repeated refused to and/or failed to investigate their own collusion in crimes against humanity. An application by Poland in October to have parts of the cases heard in closed, secret session was turned down by the ECtHR. However, “the court will hold an additional hearing, behind closed doors, a day earlier, the spokeswoman said, adding that the proceedings of that hearing "are confidential, and no public statement will be made about their nature or content."

LGC Activities:
The November monthly “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 7 November. Seven people joined the protest. The December 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 December:  

On 12 November, Dan Viesnik from the LGC contributed to an Islam Channel programme, “Analysis” on medical ethics and torture in US military detention facilities, alongside Polly Rossdale from Reprieve and Makbool Javaid from Cageprisoners:
Cakes donated to LGC by a supporter

Cakes donated to LGC by a supporter
At the rally for Shaker Aamer on 23 November, at the LGC stall, supporters of our campaign made and donated cakes for sale, as well as some artworks, which helped us to raise around £100 for our campaign. The LGC is a self-funded organisation and any donations – of funds/time – to our completely voluntary work are much appreciated.

The LGC has now announced details of its demonstration to mark 12 years of the opening of Guantánamo Bay on Saturday 11 January: