Monday, March 31, 2014

LGC Newsletter – March 2014

British residents:
Shaker Aamer has dropped his torture case against MI6 in the hope that this will allow him to return home to his family in the UK. Since 2011, the metropolitan police have been investigating claims he made that MI6 officers were present when he was tortured in Afghanistan before being sent to Guantánamo Bay. He has said that he hopes by dropping the criminal case MI6 will drop its objections to him returning to the UK. Aamer has never faced any charges or a trial in over 12 years. The British government has been seeking his return since 2007.

Close Guantánamo demonstration on 29 March
Guantánamo Bay:
Emad Abdullah Hassan, a 34-year old Yemeni prisoner, who was cleared for release in 2009 and has never been charged, successfully brought a first case by a Guantánamo prisoner to challenge the methods used by the US military to force feed hunger-striking prisoners. Lawyers for Hassan claim that he has been force fed more than 5000 times since 2007, when he went on permanent hunger strike. As a result of the methods used, he has suffered substantial internal damage and is very ill. This is the first time that a federal US court has considered the legality and heard about how the force-feeding methods used are in contravention of accepted rules. Mr Hassan’s lawyers argued that the methods used are tantamount to torture. This is the first such case since a court ruling in February that allowed the prisoners to challenge these methods and the conditions of their detention. In a statement, Emad Hassan said, “All I want is what President Obama promised – my liberty, and fair treatment for others. I have been cleared for five years, and I have been force-fed for seven years. This is not a life worth living, it is a life of constant pain and suffering. While I do not want to die, it is surely my right to protest peacefully without being degraded and abused every day.

Former British resident Ahmed Belbacha was returned to his family in Algeria on 13 March. Belbacha, 44, had never been tried or charged in over 12 years of detention at Guantánamo Bay. He had previously lived in Bournemouth for over 18 months and the LGC campaigned for him for many years as a British resident. Although the British government never sought to have Belbacha returned to the UK, considering him a failed asylum seeker, he had previously expressed a wish not to return to Algeria and to a safe third country instead; in 2009, he was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison there following an unfair trial. However, his return now is in accordance with his wishes and those of his family. Belbacha is likely to be detained temporarily, as have all others returned Algerians, before being released to his family. As with other prisoners released to Algeria, his lawyers will continue to monitor his well-being. He had been involved in the ongoing hunger strike. 154 prisoners remain at Guantánamo Bay; Ahmed Belbacha is the only person who has been released this year.

The US has been in negotiations with several Latin American countries including Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay concerning sending several Guantánamo prisoners to them who have been cleared for release but cannot be returned to their own countries. A Colombian minister has expressed concerns about Guantánamo prisoners being sent there. On the other hand, the Uruguayan president José Mujica has responded positively, stating that the country would be able to host up to 6 prisoners and that they would be held as ordinary refugees and not as political prisoners or subject to any specific restrictions. Reports have stated that Uruguay may accept 4 Syrian prisoners and a Palestinian who have been cleared for release but cannot return home. Other reports have stated that Mujica may ask the US to release 3 Cuban prisoners as well in return for his goodwill gesture. Mujica had previously been a political prisoner himself.
Dennis Edney speaks in London on 11 March

Former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr is currently being held at a military hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada, following surgery to a shoulder injury he sustained in Afghanistan in 2002 and which has not been treated in his past 12 years of incarceration at Guantánamo and in Canada. Earlier this year, he was transferred to a medium-security prison. During the operation, bone was scrapped away from the wound which has remained untreated all these years. He is now recovering from the operation. Damage to his eye in 2002 has also remained untreated to date.

A recent visit by US president Barack Obama to Europe saw anti-Guantánamo protests greet him in Brussels, outside a meeting at the European Parliament. Among other matters, including drone warfare, the United Nations Human Rights Committee criticised the US over the continuing existence of Guantánamo in its country report.

It has emerged that two soldiers serving at Guantánamo Bay have been accused of rape by female soldiers of lower ranks. Both were facing sentence, however one has since has the charges against him dropped in return for discharge from the army. A trial will be held involving another soldier in early April accused of raping a female soldier last year and sexually assaulting two others.

Extraordinary Rendition
Irish peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy, 79, was released 9 and half weeks into a three-month sentence for opposing the use of Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland by the US military as a stopover point for drone aircrafts, transport of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and for rendition flights. In spite of denial of involvement in rendition flights by the Irish government, activists and human rights organisations, including United Nations’ bodies, have all insisted Ireland must investigate its involvement inthe facilitation of torture flights through Shannon Airport.

March demo at Marble Arch
LGC Activities:
The March “Shut Guantánamo!” demonstration was attended by 3 people. The April
demonstration will be at the regular time of 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch on Thursday 3 April: This demonstration will also commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Iraq War.

The LGC hosted a series of talks in London and York on 11-20 March given by Canadian lawyer Dennis Edney QC to raise awareness about his client Omar Khadr. The talks were very well attended. Many of the events were filmed.

The LGC supported a “Close Guantánamo” demonstration organised by students from the University of Westminster Amnesty Society outside the US Embassy London on 29 March. Around 20 people attended the demonstration.

No comments:

Post a Comment