Monday, June 30, 2014
LGC Newsletter – June 2014
Shaker Aamer lost a habeas corpus petition brought by his lawyers in April demanding his released due to the post-traumatic stress and other physical and mental illnesses he is suffering in Guantánamo. A federal judge made her ruling in a brief decision and the reasoning for the decision was not disclosed. Shaker Aamer has never been charged or tried and was cleared for release in 2007.
There are now 149 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay following the release of five Afghan Taliban prisoners to Qatar on 31 May in a prisoner swap which saw the Taliban in Afghanistan release a US soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, it had detained for almost 5 years. Mr Bergdahl, now returned to the US, was the only US serviceman held by the Taliban. The prisoner swap which has raised considerable controversy in the US came shortly after Barack Obama outlined plans to keep almost 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2016, in spite of earlier plans to withdraw from the country by the end of this year.
The five Afghan prisoners released are unlikely to be returned to Afghanistan soon, and are still considered high-ranking Taliban leaders by the US even though they have spent over a decade in Guantánamo Bay.
Two of the prisoners sent to Qatar are implicated in attacks on civilians in Afghanistan in the 1990s, leading to the deaths of hundreds of people. Calls have been made to the US to prosecute them, but it does not have the jurisdiction to do this.
Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, one of the five defendants accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks and facing trial at Guantánamo has asked to have his case tried separately from that of the other 4 defendants, including Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, due to the on-going delays in the case. Al-Hawsawi faces separate, lesser charges and is not involved in a series of issues that have held up the pre-trial hearings. A similar application two years ago was rejected.
At this month’s pre-trial hearing, on 16 June, the judge heard arguments that were raised at the last hearing concerning a possible FBI probe into lawyers defending the five men, amid accusations that the FBI tried to turn a defence team expert into an informant. The court also considered whether there were other similar issues defence lawyers were not aware of. The pre-trial hearing has now been adjourned until August.
In the case of Abd Al-Nashiri, currently facing the death penalty at Guantánamo for alleged involvement in attacks on US military vessels in the Gulf of Aden in 2000, the military judge at Guantánamo James Pohl upheld his earlier ruling in April demanding the CIA disclose details of the torture Al-Nashiri faced when he “disappeared” into secret CIA-run torture facilities around the world following his arrest in the UAE in 2002. The ruling dismissed an appeal by the US government and is reported to demand details of dates and places. The disclosure could reveal considerable details about the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme. Al-Nashiri currently has two cases pending at the European Court of Human Rights against Poland and Romania, where he is reported to have been held and tortured, among other countries.
Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi, a 53-year old Iraqi national who moved to Afghanistan in the 1990s, has become the twelfth prisoner to be arraigned before a military commission at Guantánamo on 18 June, over seven years after he arrived at Guantánamo Bay. Al-Iraqi was “was arraigned on the noncapital charges of terrorism, denying quarter, using treachery or perfidy, murder of protected persons, attacking protected property, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, and employing poison or similar weapons to force the United States, its allies, and non-Muslims out of the Arabian Peninsula, Afghanistan and Iraq”. Considered a senior member of Al Qaeda by the US military, his lawyers will argue that he is actually an ordinary soldier of the Taliban, not an Al Qaeda member, making him a lawful combatant who was defending his adopted homeland of Afghanistan. The timing of the arraignment has raised questions as to whether it was to deflect criticism from the release of five Afghan Taliban prisoners as part of a prisoner swap for the release of one US soldier held by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
He has requested a civilian lawyer to help prepare his case. He has been assigned a military lawyer but as his charges do not carry the death penalty, a civilian lawyer is not automatically allocated and security clearance is required for any such counsel.
Three prisoner status reviews were held this month: Kuwaitis Fawzi Al-Odah and Fayiz Al-Kandari, had their detention status reviewed on 4 and 12 June respectively. Neither man has been charged or tried; while 10 other Kuwaiti prisoners have long been released, they have remained and been held indefinitely. A $40 million rehabilitation centre built by the Kuwaiti authorities to house and monitor the two men if returned to the country has remained unused for several years. Lawyers for the two men said they would agree to remain at such a centre and undergo other monitoring by the authorities and that their intention is to return home and live ordinary civilian lives. Both had travelled to Afghanistan for charitable purposes and worked with established NGOs.
A Saudi prisoner had his status reviewed a week later.
Lahcen Ikasrrien, a former Guantánamo prisoner released to Spain in 2005, where he is a naturalised citizen, was arrested with 7 other men on 16 June on suspicion of recruiting militants to fight in Syria. He is suspected of being the leader of an ISIS cell in Spain. Several dozen arrests have been carried out across the country over the past month. Ikasrrien, who was never charged or tried, and tortured in Afghanistan, has been monitored by the Spanish authorities since his release almost a decade ago.
Lawyers for 6 prisoners Uruguay offered to resettle several months ago have written to the Obama administration asking it to speed by the process; the deal has been awaiting the signature of Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel since March. The Uruguayan authorities have also urged the US to act quickly. The six men have been cleared for release but are all from Arab states to which they cannot return and are effectively refugees.
Following revelations in the US Senate torture report about the use of the island of Diego Garcia in British-administrated territory in the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean to transfer and detain rendition victims, a cross-party panel of MPs has demanded greater oversight and control over US use of the military base there. In the 1960s, the British government forcibly removed the residents of the island to make way for a US military base. In 2008, the Foreign Secretary was compelled to admit in parliament that the territory had been used twice for torture flights, having previously denied this. More recently, NGOs have called on the government to reveal everything it knows about the use of the territory in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme. The US senate is still deciding which parts of its report to disclose.
On 18 June, activists from Irish human rights and peace organisation Shannonwatch, who have logged torture flights refuelling and stopping over at Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland were invited to give evidence to a parliamentary committee to consider their petition “asking for the [Irish] Government to set up an investigation into US Military and CIA use of Irish airspace and Shannon Airport in particular”.
In spite of criticism from the UN, the EU, NGOs and Irish civil society, the Irish government has failed to investigate or monitor US military use of the civilian airport. “Shannonwatch made a number of recommendations to the Oireachtas Committee, including that the government should establish an independent and impartial inquiry into the use of Shannon in the CIA's illegal renditions programme.” This inquiry should examine the reasons for the failure to inspect suspect rendition aircraft. And the outcome of the inquiry should be made public" said John Lannon who was part of the Shannonwatch delegation that addressed the Oireachtas Committee.”
Police in Scotland are currently carrying out investigations into torture flights through Glasgow Airport. Six flights are currently being investigated, including one stop-over carrying Khaled Sheikh Mohammed to a torture facility in Poland. Other flights may be investigated too but that has yet to be confirmed.
The June “Shut Guantánamo!” demonstration was attended by 8 people. The July
demonstration will be at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch on Thursday 3rd July: https://www.facebook.com/events/554058481369760/
Over 50 people joined a solidarity vigil we held in Trafalgar Square on 26 June to mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Joined by several other campaigns, activists held a “See No Evil, Speak No Evil” vigil to highlight this year’s theme of fighting impunity, particularly relevant to the UK. A report of the successful action can be read here: http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/see-no-evil-speak-no-evil-solidarity.html