Tuesday, September 30, 2014

LGC Newsletter – September 2014

Guantánamo Bay:
A US navy nurse who refused to force feed hunger striking prisoners at Guantánamo is continuing to face persecution from the US military. Although the military decided not to court martial him for his actions, thereby not making any details of the hunger strike and the feeding procedure public, as would result from a trial, he faces disciplinary measures, which could include him losing his job and his benefits. The nurse’s humane gesture came to light earlier this year when a hunger-striking prisoner wrote to his lawyer praising the nurse’s action.

On 15 September, pre-trial hearings started in the case of Abdel Hadi Al-Iraqi who faces a life sentence for war crimes; he is alleged to be a senior Al Qaeda commander and to have organised attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004 that killed allied soldiers. He was one of the last prisoners to be brought to Guantánamo in 2007, and had prior to that, after his arrest in 2006, “disappeared” into secret CIA torture prisons.
At the hearing, Al-Iraqi met his military lawyer for the first time. Although his previous lawyer was dismissed, he is still also seeking a civilian lawyer to work on his case, which he is not automatically entitled to, as he is not facing capital charges. At the hearing, the prosecution asked for all details relating to his interrogation to be kept secret. Although the prosecution claims he was not subject to “enhanced interrogation methods”, such as waterboarding, it said it was up to the CIA to say what could be disclosed.

Three prisoners, Saeed Mohammed Saleh Hatim, Abdurrahman al-Shubati and Fadel Hentif, have applied for an en banc rehearing of a case that was decided by a US federal court of appeal at the beginning of August, ruling that military guards at Guantánamo Bay can carry out intimate physical searches of prisoners, lifting a previous ban. The court had held that the action was not unconstitutional. Counsel for the three prisoners is asking for the case to be heard by all the judges at the same court and questions the interpretation applied by the court.

Lawyers for Canadian former prisoner Omar Khadr headed to the Canadian federal courts in early September to resume a case that was stalled in December last year when the judge said that the lawsuit, first brought suing the Canadian government for involvement in Khadr’s torture in 2004 when he was still held at Guantánamo, had to be rewritten. It was resubmitted and Khadr’s lawyers sought to expand the claims against the Canadian government to include conspiracy by Canada with the US in the abuse of his rights and his torture. Lawyers for the Canadian government said that under Canadian federal law, the US government could not be brought into a civil claim and that this issue could be dealt with under the existing claims. The judge reserved judgment on the case.

While Uruguay waits to receive the 6 Guantánamo prisoners it has said it will take as refugees, the government of Peru has ruled out taking any Guantánamo prisoners, following a US request. http://www.peruviantimes.com/19/peru-says-no-to-guantanamo-prisoners/22916/ The Chilean government has also said that taking Guantánamo prisoners “is not a priority” for the country after weighing up a similar request.

Lawyers for the US government are seeking to keep proceedings secret in a court hearing to be held in early October concerning the force feeding of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The lawyers claim that it is a matter of national security. The case brought by Syrian hunger striker Abu Wael Dhiab concerns the methods used against the prisoners and the forced feeding against their will to keep them alive. This is illegal, when carried out on a rational prisoner, almost everywhere else in the world. Earlier this year, an emergency injunction to halt his force feeding was soon overturned but the government was asked to disclose tapes showing the force feeding. While lawyers on both sides will be heard at the hearing, US government lawyers are seeking to keep the public and the media out.

Extraordinary Rendition:
The US released 14 Pakistani prisoners from Bagram prison in Afghanistan. Although it handed authority over the prison to the Afghan authorities last year, the US has maintained control over up to 60 foreign nationals, mainly Pakistanis. This is the largest group of prisoners, who have less rights than Guantánamo prisoners, to be released in one go. Over the past year, 39 Pakistanis are known to have been released from Bagram, in most cases only to face further persecution once back in their own country. Two Yemenis and a Kazakh prisoner were also released last month. The actual number of prisoners and the conditions and reasons for their detention are highly guarded secrets by the US military.
With the US officially ending its involvement in the war in Afghanistan at the end of this year, even though it plans to keep 10,000 troops there, the future of the remaining Bagram prisoners remains unknown. Transfer to Guantánamo is unlikely but the US intends to maintain control over them.

LGC Activities:
The September “Shut Guantánamo!” demonstration was attended by 8 people. The October demonstration will be at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch on Thursday 2nd October: https://www.facebook.com/events/1446269325597802/

As part of a government consultation on anti-terrorism laws, one of our activists recently corresponded with David Anderson QC, the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, about Shaker Aamer: http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/david-anderson-qc-shaker-aamer-and-anti.html Their correspondence and Anderson’s referral to sources that suggest practices that would be illegal in this country, such as prolonged detention without trial or charge, speak volumes about the government’s actual attitude to Guantánamo prisoners such as Mr Aamer.
The IRCT in Copenhagen, which coordinates the actions worldwide on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, published its annual report of actions and features our London action on pages 34-35:

Friday, September 19, 2014

David Anderson QC, Shaker Aamer and Anti-Terrorism Laws in the UK

As part of a review of investigatory powers prior to the general election in 2015 announced by Theresa May MP, the Home Secretary, to be carried out by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, a call for submissions was made https://terrorismlegislationreviewer.independent.gov.uk/review-of-communications-data-and-interception-powers/ (open until Friday 3 October 2014).

In response to this call, an LGC activist made an independent submission to draw awareness to the case of British resident Shaker Aamer, still held in Guantánamo Bay, given that David Anderson QC is the independent advisor to government on the highly sensitive issues of counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation. In spite of his legal credentials, his response was a referral to reports that support the idea that it might not be unfair to condemn someone without evidence and abuse and imprison them without charge or trial, based simply upon unfounded suspicion and prejudice. Such views put forward by a senior legal figure appointed by the British government undermines the government's claims that it is committed to the rule of law and Mr Aamer's quest for freedom after having been held for almost 13 years without charge or trial and the least due process.

"26 August, 2014.

Dear David Anderson
Evidence for Investigating Powers Review

You have rightly commented that counter-terrorism is an important task that cannot be accomplished through legislation alone. The cooperation of individuals and communities is a vital element in countering “radical” ideas and indoctrination. It is important that those responsible for setting agendas for social responsibility, for civilising values, for cooperative and tolerant attitudes and behaviour, for acceptance and tolerance of difference, and for the setting of examples and inspiring virtuous and humane aspirations, as well as their various audiences, should feel valued, comfortable, and at ease with UK society and government.

I wish to draw your attention to the situation of Shaker Aamer, his family and supporters and many who have been actively campaigning, with no visible result, for over seven years. Shaker and his family decided that the Islamic commitment to supporting charity through contributions to the Friday collections was inadequate. Accordingly the entire family relocated to Afghanistan to do charitable work. After 9/11 the American ‘cavalry’ charged in with a mission to exact brutal retribution on anyone they determined, without evidence, could possibly have been implicated in the establishment of an Afghanistan-based terror machine. His wife and family escaped via Pakistan and have awaited, in Battersea, the return of their much loved father and husband since 2001. Shaker has been appallingly treated. He was cleared by six security agencies as being of no value as a Guantanamo prisoner in 2007. (This is security apparatus speak for: he is innocent, should never have been detained, has no evidence of any wrong-doing or malicious intent against his name, has no intelligence value and should be released immediately as his continuing imprisonment is a further gross injustice, compounding all previous injustices, and a cost and burden on the government of the United States.) For lack of any evidence or hint of wrong-doing he has never been charged or tried and there are no proposals to do so.

David Cameron. William Hague and Nick Clegg have all pledged to engage with US authorities to secure his release and return but since there are no results their pledges ring decidedly hollow. Jane Ellison MP for Battersea was comparatively active till promoted to a ministerial post. This government instituted an epetition scheme to enable issues of concern to electors to be properly aired. Over 117,000 signatures were collected for Shaker Aamer. I am certain that many times the number could have been were organisation better coordinated, and certainly there are many thousands who know and understand the story – and feel aggrieved at the treatment of an innocent charity worker simply because he was a Muslim charity worker in Afghanistan. The promised Parliamentary debate has not even been scheduled and there is no evidence that action is even in prospect. Records show that Britain was covertly complicit in Shaker’s treatment and suspicion naturally gravitates towards an explanation for delay implying that government embarrassment is the cause of Shaker’s continuing imprisonment. When I talk to Muslims particularly they are often inclined to express frustration over injustice, bigotry and prejudice. Nor are feelings of scepticism, betrayal and injustice confined to Muslims. Government inaction cannot be viewed in a positive light by anyone and procrastination and delays simply confirm in the minds of those, inclined to suspicion of government motives and intentions, that justice and treatment of Muslims is of a secondary order to the rest of UK society; and injustices are the result of government prejudice against Islam generally. I don’t believe this is at all helpful to community relations. I have repeatedly attempted to draw government’s attention to this issue without result. I have written to the Intelligence and Security Committee and to COBRA but my concerns were brushed off. Your predecessor, Lord Carlisle seemed also to be distinctly underwhelmed.

If what you said about perceptions and community relations was meant I would urge that you urgently make representations to anyone who will actually listen and get those in positions of responsibility and influence to take some effective action to bring Shaker back and reunite a family whose only motive for travelling to Afghanistan was to do something effective to make life better for others. For those in authority and power, who repeatedly like to point fingers of responsibility elsewhere, I can only say that the perception is that they are responsible for inaction and continued injustice, whatever I or anyone else says. It is not easy to accept a proposition that the UK government is powerless to effect the release and return of an innocent husband and father to his family in Battersea when the USA authorities themselves have cleared him for release in 2007, and again since, and have determined that there is no evidence of any wrong-doing whatsoever against him. Government correspondence is diverted through a Whitehall department called the Counter Terrorism Office which it is understood is staffed by former MI5 and MI6 officers whom it is widely believed have disincentives for actioning the release of Guantanamo prisoners; innocent or no. For their own sakes, for those with power and influence,  and for everyone else’s sake therefore it would be best to bite the bullet and resolve the issue now before further time and distrust are able to continue to corrode community relations. This must make good sense for you and colleagues who are attempting to resolve potential problems of “radicalisation”.  

I do look forward with great interest to your response and, judging by your own very sensible observations, sincerely hope that you will use your good offices to draw attention to the widespread perceptions of hypocrisy in this matter, urging that speedy and urgent action be taken now. I look forward to your response with hope and anticipation."

He received the following response on 8 September 2014:

Thank you for your thoughtful and courteous letter of 26 August.
What you say about Shaker Aamer is of great interest, though some of it is not uncontroversial (for another perspective, see this article from 2012: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970204468004577164904145708474).
Though I consider Guantanamo to be a serious blot on the record of the United States in the “war against terror”, I regret that I am in no position to take a view on contested facts in the case of Shaker Aamer, still less to add my voice to the campaign for his release.  My statutory functions begin and end with the review of certain specific UK counter-terrorism legislation.  Though as you point out in the title of your letter I shall also be conducting an Investigatory Powers Review over the next few months, it does not appear that the issues you raise fall within the scope of that review either.
I am sorry not to have more encouraging news.
Yours sincerely,
David Anderson