Friday, January 31, 2014

LGC Newsletter – January 2014


Guantánamo Bay:
Following the release from Guantánamo Bay of nine prisoners in December 2013, bringing the number of remaining prisoners to 155 in total, Barack Obama has been continuing slowly with his stated plans to close the prison.
Just one day before Guantánamo’s 12th anniversary, a periodic prisoner status review cleared a Yemeni prisoner, Mahmoud Mujahid, 33, held indefinitely without charge or trial for over 12 years, for release. He was one of almost 50 prisoners previously considered too dangerous to release but without enough evidence to charge. The 6-member panel found him that he “no longer posed a continuing significant threat to the US.” However, the news that he can be released is not necessarily positive as he now joins the ranks of dozens of other Yemeni prisoners cleared for release, found to pose no threat to the US, but who remain there nonetheless. Considering the country too dangerous to release prisoners to in 2010, Barack Obama imposed a moratorium preventing Yemeni prisoners from being released there, but lifted it in May 2013. Nonetheless, not a single one of the 60+ Yemeni prisoners who are cleared for release have been sent home since.
In his annual State of the Union address to the US people on 29 January, Barack Obama stated that this is the year to close Guantánamo.
However, the Guantánamo hunger strike which reaches its first anniversary on 6 February is still ongoing, with over 30 prisoners reported to be taking part, including British resident Shaker Aamer.
On 28 January, a second periodic prisoner status review was held, only the second in the past 3 years, and this time a whole 19 minutes of the proceedings were made accessible to the public via a video relay before going into a closed session hearing. The public were able to see but did not hear Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al-Rahabi, a 34-year old Yemeni, who the US accuses of being an Al Qaeda member.

Contrary to earlier reports in the Canadian media that Omar Khadr was to be moved imminently to a medium-security prison following his reclassification as a medium-security prisoner, his lawyer, Dennis Edney, has confirmed that there are no immediate plans to move him and he remains in a maximum-security prison in Edmonton. It was reported that he would be moved to the Bowden Correctional Facility but while that is still on the cards, he will remain where he is for the foreseeable future.

On 22 January, the fifth anniversary of Barack Obama signing a decree to close Guantánamo by 21 January 2010, 31 retired US army personnel wrote a letter to him calling on him to close Guantánamo; the signatories include formal generals and admirals. They stated in their letter: “Guantanamo does not serve America’s interests. As long as it remains open, Guantanamo will undermine America’s security and status as a nation where human rights and the rule of law matter.” The signatories had also stood behind Barack Obama when he signed the decree which has long been broken. Barack Obama’s administration continues to blame Congress for much of the delay in releasing prisoners.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has refused to pursue any disciplinary measures against one of its members, John Leso, a former army major reserve, for his involvement in the brutal torture of former Saudi Guantánamo prisoner Mohamed Al-Qahtani, who had charges dropped against him and was subsequently released once the brutal way in which the evidence had against him had been obtained. The APA did not deny his involvement, in a letter concluding a year-long investigation it carried out, even though he acted in breach of professional ethics.

Pre-trial hearings in the case of 5 prisoners alleged to have been involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks that were suspended for a year pending a mental health assessment of one of the defendants may resume earlier than that after it was reported that Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh has refused to undergo an assessment. Al-Shibh was supposed to meet the three-member panel in early January but declined, saying he was unable to. A hearing is scheduled for next month but it is unclear if Al-Shibh is one of the defendants involved.

Extraordinary Rendition
A Washington Post report on 23 January claims that the CIA paid the Polish authorities $15 million in cash to run secret torture facilities for it. This money was given to Polish intelligence counterparts and formed the basis of an agreement signed between the two countries to run torture camps in Poland. The report documents the process of setting up the secret prison, the transfer of prisoners there from other countries, through extraordinary rendition, and the torture they faced, including waterboarding.
In response, a former Polish intelligence chief, Marek Siwiec, who headed Poland's National Security Bureau from 1997 to 2004, during the period in which the CIA operated its jail, said that it is time for Poland to come clean on its involvement and has called for a thorough investigation. He claims that he never knew about the torture facilities when he was in charge.
Following information published in the incomplete Detainee Inquiry report in December, police in Scotland will be asked to investigate the possible use of Scottish airports at Glasgow and Prestwick for torture flights.

An American punk band, Skinny Puppy, who discovered that their music was used on at least four occasions to torture prisoners at Guantánamo Bay has come up with a novel way of protesting the unauthorised use: they decided to send the US government an invoice for its use, but instead of mailing it, they have made it the cover of their album, Weapon: “We had a cool concept on the record because we heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people. We heard that our music was used in at least four occasions. We thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the U.S. government for musical services, thus the concept of the record title, Weapon.” How did the band feel about this use of their music? “Not too good. We never supported those types of scenarios. It's kind of typical that we thought this would end up happening, in a weird way. Because, we make unsettling music we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn't sit right with us.

Following a refusal by the Lithuanian public prosecution services to investigate allegations of running torture facilities for the CIA, involving current Guantánamo prisoner Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, a higher court has overruled this decision and called for an investigation, following an appeal by human rights organisations.

LGC Activities:
The LGC marked the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay with a demonstration attended by over 250 people from across England in Trafalgar Square on 11 January. A visual display, creating a wall of orange and white banners, outside the National Gallery protested the continued operation of Guantánamo and speakers raised important points about the issues, including a lawyer and several politicians. Messages of support were also read out.
A full report with links to pictures, videos, etc. & is available here:

Our next monthly demo on 6 February will be a special demonstration with a candlelight vigil and spoken word to mark not only the seventh anniversary of our regular protests outside the embassy but also the first anniversary of the Guantánamo hunger strike on the same day. For this reason, the vigil has been moved to the evening – be sure to join us!

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