Friday, May 30, 2014
LGC Newsletter – May 2014
At the beginning of May, the Yemeni government announced a presidential decree that it would look into building a rehabilitation centre to accommodate prisoners returned to the country from Guantánamo Bay. This move could speed up the repatriation of Yemeni prisoners who make up the largest single nationality (70+) as well as the largest number of prisoners cleared for release (57). Some lawyers for the Yemeni prisoners have expressed concerns that this effectively means only further imprisonment – without charge – upon return to the country and not actual release, as well as continuing surveillance at the behest of the US. Last year, Barack Obama lifted a moratorium he imposed in 2010 preventing the return of Yemeni prisoners to the country, but none have been released since. No reasons have been given for the failure to release these innocent men over the past year.
In the meantime, the prisoner status review panel has cleared another Yemeni prisoner for release. 35-year old Ghaleb Nassar al Bihani was cleared for eventual release and recommended for resettlement in a third country rather than Yemen; he does not wish to return to the country, although he would accept repatriation there. He is known to be in poor health. His lawyer later stated that “the security and other agencies on the board rightly determined that his continued detention of more than 12 years is unnecessary." This brings the number of prisoners held but cleared for release to 79 out of a total of 154.
Earlier in May, another prisoner, Saudi Mohammed al-Shimrani, refused to attend his review panel hearing due to the intrusive physical body search he would have to be subject to in order to do so. He described the search as “humiliating and degrading”.
Uruguayan President José Mujica has stated that his country will accept 6 Guantánamo prisoners who have been cleared for release but cannot return home for their own safety or do not have homes to return to: they are 4 Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian. He met the US president during a visit to the country. Mujica has asked the US to move fast – all the men have been long cleared for release – but the US has responded only that it will consider the request. Uruguay has insisted it will treat the men as ordinary refugees whereas the US may demand security assurances, as it does with other states.
The Guantánamo hunger strike is currently in its 15th month. Although the US military stopped providing statistics on hunger strikers long ago, at least 17 prisoners are reported to still be involved and are being force-fed against their will.
Prisoners brought a court case to prevent the military authorities from destroying newly-discovered videos of force-feeding procedures, as part of a lawsuit to stop the military from force-feeding the prisoners altogether. The prisoners won the case and the judge ordered hundreds of such videos to be preserved. Further filings in the case after the judge made this ruling revealed that one prisoner, Pakistani Ahmed Rabbani, contracted a chest infection due to the incorrect insertion of the tube on many occasions leading him to cough up blood.
On 16 May, one hunger-striking prisoner won a very temporary relief when a federal judge ordered that military authorities do not tube-feed Syrian prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab or remove him from his cell for this purpose until a hearing the following Wednesday (when the above ruling on the videos was made). However, a week later, the same judge reluctantly removed the order, even though it causes the prisoner “agony”, due to the risk that he could die, as he would still refuse food. She criticised the military’s actions “"Thanks to the intransigence of the Department of Defense, Mr Dhiab may well suffer unnecessary pain from certain enteral feeding practices and forcible cell extractions. However, the Court simply cannot let Mr Dhiab die."” Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was cleared for release in 2009, will continue to be force-fed until further progress is made in the case.
The trial in the case of Abd Al-Nashiri, accused of attacks against US military vessels in Yemen in the early 2000s, for which he faces the death penalty, is unlikely to start until February 2015, having been set back further by the judge. Preliminary procedural issues continue to be argued in pre-trial hearings that continued this month. One of the main reasons for the latest delay is an order by the Guantánamo military judge last month ordering the military to hand over full details – names, places, dates – of what happened to Nashiri in the four years between 2002 and 2006 when he was kidnapped in the UAE and “disappeared” into the CIA’s network of illegal torture prisons over 3 continents. This is currently the subject of cases before the European Court of Human Rights. In spite of the judge’s order, the prosecution is refusing to hand over this information as it argues that the judge does not have the power to force the disclosure of such government information. This was one of the issues brought up at this month’s pre-trial hearings.
The wife of the US military officer former Canadian Guantánamo child prisoner Omar Khadr is alleged to have killed and a US soldier he is alleged to have injured have filed a case against him in a Utah court seeking damages of over $45 million. The case has yet to be accepted by the court, but if admitted, could prove highly problematic for both the US and Canadian authorities with Khadr’s on-going cases in Canada and appeal of his conviction in the US, in addition to asking the court to accept evidence acquired through the use of torture. Omar Khadr’s lawyers have said that they have not been formally informed of any case.
On 14 May, 10 Pakistani prisoners were released to Pakistan from Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, where some had been held for a decade without charge or trial. The released men include Yunus Rahmatullah, who was “rendered” to the US military by British soldiers in Iraq in 2004, when he visited the country for a religious pilgrimage. The men “disappeared” upon return to Pakistan and their lawyers brought a court case to force the government to admit they had been detained. They remain in detention and will soon meet their families and lawyers. Other Pakistani prisoners released at the end of last year had charges pressed against them after return to the country and face trial, even though the US deemed them innocent when it released them from Bagram.
The May “Shut Guantánamo!” demonstration was attended by 4 people. The June
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 5th June: https://www.facebook.com/events/1510888775798741/
Over 70 people joined a lunchtime protest we held in Trafalgar Square on 23 May as part of a Global Day of Action to Close Guantánamo, marking the anniversary of Barack Obama’s latest major pledge to close Guantánamo Bay. Protesters held up placards stating “Not another day in Guantánamo” and an inflatable Shaker Aamer drew awareness to the plight of the last British resident held there. The LGC thanks everyone who joined us for a successful action that was well received by the public. Here is our report of the action in London with pictures, links to other media on the event and our letter published in The Guardian newspaper on the day:
The London action was one of over 40 actions worldwide in 7 different countries: Australia, Canada, Poland, Mexico, Germany, the US and the UK. Hundreds of people took part worldwide. A comprehensive round-up of the international actions: http://onesmallwindow.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/no-more-broken-promises-global-day-of-action-to-close-guantanamo/