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.

Friday, March 15, 2013

MEDIA RELEASE: London Guantánamo Campaign to hold emergency protest in support of Guantánamo Bay hunger strikers, Sunday 17 March, 2-4pm, US Embassy

MEDIA RELEASE: London Guantánamo Campaign to hold emergency protest in support of Guantánamo Bay hunger strikers, Sunday 17 March, 2-4pm, US Embassy

15 March 2013 - For immediate release

Since early February, the vast majority of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have been on hunger strike, in response to the arbitrary confiscation of personal items from their cells and the desecration of copies of the Koran by prison interpreters [1]. Their lawyers have received reports of “men coughing up blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued, and being moved to Camp V for observation. Detainees have also expressed feeling increased stress, fear, and despair.” [2] Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the US military continues to deny the existence of the hunger strike [3].

The London Guantánamo Campaign [4] will hold a demonstration in support of the Guantánamo Bay hunger strikers on Sunday 17 March at 2-4pm outside the US Embassy in London. British resident Shaker Aamer [5] is also on hunger strike. The hunger strike has been largely overlooked by the mainstream media and human rights community.

Aisha Maniar, an organiser from the London Guantánamo Campaign, said:
“Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have gone on hunger strike a number of times in the past to protest the conditions of their detention. It is perhaps one of the very few means available to them. While it has resulted in force feeding, a further violation of their rights, it has also often resulted in better prison conditions. However, improvements have failed to address the underlying desperation and frustration the prisoners feel after eleven years of imprisonment without charge, trial or the prospect of release. This is akin to a hostage crisis.

“Having failed to keep his first-term promises on Guantánamo Bay, Barack Obama’s administration is instead letting what he had once called a “misguided experiment” spiral out of control. As well as respecting the prisoners’ lawful demands to have their human rights recognised, the US administration must take positive steps to prevent any such further escalations by releasing the prisoners and closing the prison.”




1. On 4 March, lawyers for the prisoners wrote to the prison commander Rear Admiral John Smith raising these matters and the resulting hunger strike, calling on the US military to “take immediate measures to bring an end this potentially life - threatening situation in the camps by addressing the reasons that give rise to it.
“Camp authorities must cease the arbitrary and regressive practices being reported by our clients, including all intrusive searches of the Qur’an.”
166 prisoners remain at Guantánamo Bay, of whom more than half have been cleared for release and less than a dozen face charges. With few exceptions, all have been held for up to and over 11 years without charge or trial.
2. Ibid.
4. The London Guantánamo Campaign campaigns for justice for all prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, for the closure of this and other secret prisons, and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition.  
5. Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the US military in 2007. He claims to have been tortured repeatedly during his time in US custody, on one occasion in the presence of a British intelligence agent. He has a British wife and four children living in Battersea, south London. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown sought his release in August 2007, along with four other residents held at Guantánamo Bay, the last of whom was released in February 2009.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

EMERGENCY DEMONSTRATION: Protest the Guantánamo Hunger Strike, Sunday 17 March, 2-4pm, US Embassy

Hunger strikes: “the weapon of those who have nothing but their bodies with which to protest”* 
The London Guantánamo Campaign invites you to join us at an
US EMBASSY, GROSVENOR SQUARE, LONDON, W1A 1AE (nearest tube: Bond St/Marble Arch)
We will have speakers and an open mic
Almost all of the 166 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have been on hunger strike since early February. This protest which has led to force feeding against the human rights of prisoners and some prisoners losing over 15kg in weight was prompted by the confiscation of personal items from cells and the desecration of copies of the Koran. In a letter sent by lawyers for the prisoners to the prison commander on 4 March, they state that the “situation is potentially life-threatening.” The US military denies the situation, which is clearly getting out of hand.
Over half of the prisoners have been cleared for release and less than a dozen face any charges after more than a decade of arbitrary detention. The desperation shown in the latest episode of this hostage crisis has been ignored by the mainstream media. We invite you to join us as we protest this injustice.

For more details, please call Aisha on 07809 757 176 or e-mail
* From Borderline Justice by Frances Webber, 2012, originally as "...who had nothing..."