Sunday, August 31, 2014

LGC Newsletter – August 2014

British residents:
According to human rights NGO Reprieve, which represents him, Shaker Aamer has reportedly been beaten at Guantánamo Bay, as part of a new crackdown on prisoners protesting their detention without charge. The claim comes in letters it received from another detained client Emad Hassan telling of a new “standard procedure” called Forcible Cell Extraction [FCE] where a team is brought in to beat prisoners. According to Reprieve, “‘Forcible Cell Extraction’ or ‘FCEing’ is the process by which a detainee is forced out of his cell by a group of armed guards, often before being taken to the force-feeding chair. Mr Aamer has previously described being beaten by the FCE team up to eight times a day”. Other prisoners have been beaten too.

Guantánamo Bay:
A US court of appeal ruled that it is okay for military guards at Guantánamo Bay to carry out intimate physical searches of prisoners, which have been used to prevent them from seeing their lawyers. Intimate searches of the prisoners’ genital area and body cavities before being allowed to meet their lawyers have been used to intimidate and humiliate prisoners. The practice started at the height of the ongoing hunger strike in May 2013, with the death of Yemeni prisoner Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, allegedly from a drug overdose in September 2012, being given as a pretext. Overturning a decision that prevented such searches, Judge Thomas B. Griffith said, “Although we must not give prison administrators a free hand to disregard fundamental rights, this case is a far cry from instances where administrators have acknowledged their intent to extinguish prisoner rights and acted accordingly. The tenuous evidence of an improper motive to obstruct access to counsel in this case cannot overcome the legitimate, rational connection between the security needs of Guantánamo Bay and thorough searches of detainees. Similar searches are carried out on prisoners held in US “supermax” maximum security prisons.  

The pre-trial hearing in the military tribunal of Abd Al-Nashiri accused of involvement in bombings of US and European interests in the Gulf of Aden in the early 2000s resumed on 4 August. His lawyers asked that the jury should know what method would be used to execute him if convicted. The prosecution retorted that the execution method is not a concern for the jury and is not usually discussed until the trial has started. The actual trial is due to start in February 2015, however given the various interruptions and stalling of this kangaroo court procedure, it is likely to start later.
This is the first time that the new judge in this case Air Force Colonel Vance Spath has overseen the pre-trial hearings. Al-Nashiri’s defence lawyer Richard Kammen asked for Spath to stand down due to his possible bias or lack or neutrality as a member of the defence team worked on a separate death penalty sentence Spath oversaw in 2005, however Spath denied this motion and remains as the judge.
On 11 August, Spath threw out collateral charges related to a 2002 Al Qaeda attack on a French oil tanker, the Limburg. This was on the basis that the prosecution did not produce any evidence about the bombing. The importance of this charge related to earlier issues concerning whether Guantánamo military commissions have the jurisdiction to consider alleged crimes that took place before 11 September 2001. Commenting on the decision, Al-Nashiri’s lawyer Richard Kammen said “the decision demonstrated the need to try the case in federal court.
Pre-trial hearings in the other Guantánamo military commission of five prisoners alleged to have been involved in the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001 recommenced on 11 August.
A motion was brought at the court on whether to sever one of the defendants Ramzi bin Al-Shibh from the case, to allow him to face a separate trial as certain issues only affect his case, he is not facing all of the same charges and severing the case into two would allow the other four defendants to make progress in their case. Although the prosecution wanted to keep the cases joined, the judge and Al-Shibh agreed to the motion.
Khalid Sheikh Mohamed’s military lawyer Major Jason Wright is no longer representing him, and has resigned both from the case and the US army. Having taken on the case in 2011, he was asked in February to take a 9-month graduate military law course, during which he would be absent from the case. He asked for a deferral but when this was refused with the ultimatum that he either take the course and leave the case or leave the army, he chose the latter course.
Last month, Kuwaiti prisoner Fawzi Al-Odah was cleared for release following a periodic status review after 12 years of detention without charge or trial. Nonetheless, on 3 August, the US District Court for the District of Columbia accepted a US government motion to dismiss a habeas corpus case he filed in September 2013 calling for him to be released by the end of 2014 with the then stated end of hostilities and US withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year, as this is the alleged reason for his detention. Without hostility in Afghanistan, there would be no basis for his detention. The judge dismissed the case as the court lacked jurisdiction and as the claim is based on future events that may not happen. His claim that his ongoing detention was punitive and not preventative was also dismissed.

British company G4S has been given a $118 million (£70 million) contract to provide “base support operating services” at Guantánamo Bay. The controversial outsourcing company currently “faces an ongoing investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over its involvement in last year's scandal over the tagging of criminals, in which it and rival firm Serco admitted charging taxpayers for electronically tagging individuals who were either in prison or dead.” It has also been implicated in Palestinian prisoner abuse in Israel.
Reprieve has made a complaint to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) as by working there, the company may contribute to ongoing human rights abuses. “A bulletin issued by the US Department of Defence stated that G4S's responsibilities would cover "support vehicles and equipment" and "operating services" at the base, such as housing and facilities for soldiers and their families.”

The hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay, ongoing now for more than 18 months, has cost over $300,000 just on providing the liquid nutritional supplements the prisoners are often force fed. Over a dozen prisoners are reported to still be refusing food and are almost all force fed by nasal tube.
A military nurse who refused to force feed hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo has been moved from the prison facility and could face court-martial for his action. Such a move could backfire as it would raise public awareness about the hunger strike and the methods used to repress it.

Extraordinary Rendition:
“We tortured some folks” was a flippant response given by President Barack Obama at a press briefing on 1st August. While an admission that “In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did things that were contrary to our values”, the statement, relating to the as-yet unpublished Senate torture report shows the US is unrepentant over its commission of crimes against humanity and that for the CIA, the use of torture is a fairly standard procedure. In spite of ongoing controversy and debate, no date has yet been given for when the heavily-redacted report is likely to be released.

One item that has already emerged from the unpublished Senate torture report is further details on the use of the island of Diego Garcia by the US military for torture flights and to run a torture facility in the British-administered Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. It has emerged that the UK discussed a US request to house a Guantánamo-style prison with place for up to 500 detainees there. The request was rejected and the government is under growing pressure to come clean on what it knew about US use of the facility.

The US has released a number of prisoners held indefinitely at Bagram, among them two Yemenis, one of whom is suffering from leukaemia:
Nine Pakistani prisoners were also released. However, in spite of having been held without charge or trial for years, once released over the border, they were arrested in Rawalpindi and remain held incommunicado by the Pakistani security services. Lawyers have demanded to know their whereabouts. The Afghan president Hamid Karzai also expressed concerns about the release of the untried Pakistanis, questioning whether they still pose a risk to his country. They apparently did not a risk in the first place, having never been charged or tried, and detained and released without due process.

LGC Activities:
The August “Shut Guantánamo!” demonstration was attended by 7 people. The September demonstration will be at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch on Thursday 4th September:

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