Friday, January 30, 2015

LGC Newsletter – January 2015

Courtesy of Hannah Igbinidion
In mid-January, British Prime Minister David Cameron met US president Barack Obama in Washington to discuss various issues. During the talks, Cameron raised the case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantánamo Bay. During the meeting, Obama said that he would “prioritise Aamer’s case” but would still act in a manner consistent with US national security. This cryptic public exchange follows the fact that Aamer was cleared for release in 2007 and has never been charged, and the British government has been seeking his release since then. It has now been 10 years since the last British nationals were released from Guantánamo and almost 6 since the last British resident returned to the UK. No further information was given about why Aamer remains at Guantánamo.

Guantánamo Bay:
Noor Uthman Muhammed, a former prisoner from Sudan, who was released in December 2013 after serving a 34-month sentence in addition to the time he had spent at Guantánamo after arriving there in 2002 after being convicted by a military tribunal of providing material support to a terrorist organisation and conspiracy, has had his charges acquitted. On 9 January the Pentagon said the conviction had been withdrawn after an appeals court rules that material support is not a legitimate war crime.
This news could lead to the conviction of former Australian prisoner David Hicks being overturned as well. Hicks’ US lawyer Stephen Kenny said that he is likely to see a similar outcome to his case soon. Charged with many offences, Hicks was found "guilty" only on the charge of conspiracy. He did not plead guilty; he entered an Alford plea, whereby he did not admit guilt. He was later jailed in Australia on his return to the country in 2007 as part of his plea bargain deal, which was his only way of Guantánamo, even though an Alford plea is not recognised under Australian law.
The US later said in January that it admits that Hicks is innocent. The quashing of his conviction is a formality.
On 15 January, five Yemeni prisoners were released: four to Oman and one to Estonia. There are currently 122 prisoners at the detention facility. The five men are all in the 30s and 40s and had been cleared for release since at least 2009.
Following the current unrest in Yemen, the US has said that it will not be returning prisoners to the country but that will not prevent the release of Yemeni prisoners who have been cleared for release for years to safe third countries.

A current prisoner, Mohamedou Slahi from Mauritania, has had a redacted version of his diary telling of his life in Guantánamo published following a battle to have it made public. He wrote it by hand in English when he was held in solitary confinement in 2005. The book details his journey to Guantánamo and tells of the torture and abuse he has faced, including gang rape and beatings. Since its release, the book has become a bestseller on Amazon and has been recommended by many writers and literary figures.
His lawyers at the ACLU have put together the following petition calling for his release:

As well as releases, periodic reviews of prisoners who are deemed too dangerous to release continued. On 22 January, Egyptian Tariq Mahmud Ahmad Muhammad al Sawah, 57, who is suspected of being involved in Al Qaeda operations against the US in Afghanistan had a hearing to decide whether the US should continue to hold him or transfer him back to Egypt. Although suspected, he faces no charges and the periodic review board is an arbitrary administrative process which has no legal weight.
On 27 January, Yemeni Saeed Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah Sarem Jarabh had his period review hearing. He too is suspected of having fought for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, even though he has never been charged in 13 years and there is no actual evidence against him. His lawyers submitted that “he had studied Spanish and English at Guantanamo, had headed a prison farm planning project and had taken up painting” and was eager to reunite with his wife and children.
Lawyers for Canadian former prisoner Omar Khadr, who is currently held in prison in Canada and is going blind, will apply for bail in his case in March pending the outcome of an appeal against his military tribunal conviction in the US. As shown in the cases of Hicks and Muhammed, the validity of military tribunal convictions is on shaky ground, but in spite of action to overturn such convictions in the US, the Canadian government remains a strong believer in the torture evidence-based secret plea bargain conviction given to Omar Khadr and opposes all moves to alleviate his suffering.

Extraordinary Rendition:
New information has come to light in recent weeks about Lithuania’s role in the extraordinary rendition programme, including new flight logs and information about the transfer of prisoners as part of efforts by human rights NGOs to hold the state to account for its operation of torture prisons for the CIA.

LGC Activities:
The LGC marked the thirteenth anniversary of Guantánamo Bay with street theatre and talks at the US Embassy on 11 January. Around 150 people joined the demonstration, during which the public was given a public demonstration through artistic performance of the hypocrisy of Barack Obama over the closure of Guantánamo Bay. Speeches were given by Jean Lambert MEP, Ben Griffin from Veterans for Peace UK, Noa Kleinman from Amnesty International UK, Joy Hurcombe from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and solicitor Louise Christian.

Our next monthly “Shut Guantánamo!” demo, which marks eight years of our regular demonstrations outside the US Embassy and the second anniversary of the ongoing Guantánamo hunger strike will be on Thursday 5 February:

Courtesy of Hannah Igbinidion

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