Thursday, April 30, 2015
In mid-April, media reports, mainly in the Washington Post and The Independent, stated that British resident Shaker Aamer is likely to be released in June along with two other prisoners who have long been cleared for release, Moroccan Younis Chekkouri and Mauritanian Ahmed Ould Abdel al-Aziz.
This comes as part of reported plans to release at least 10 cleared prisoners in the coming weeks and all of the 57 prisoners cleared for released before the end of 2015.
However, the Miami Herald reports that no steps have been taken to start the release procedure for any prisoners, which takes at least one month. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article19346010.html
In March, a Foreign Office junior minister told a House of Commons debate about Shaker Aamer that he still has to undergo security clearance prior to being approved for release. In 2009, the Obama administration cleared him for release only to his native Saudi Arabia, but he has insisted, as has the British government, that he be returned to the UK where his family lives. Although the media has reported Aamer may be released soon, there has been no indication that his release will be to the UK.
The reported desire to step up the release of prisoners comes ahead of a vote on a bill tabled earlier in the year by Senator Kelly Ayotte to prevent the transfer of any more of the 122 remaining prisoners before a new US president takes office in 2017. President Obama has said he would use his power of veto to block this bill if passed.
Former British resident, 36 year old, Jamal Kiyemba, was arrested in Kampala, Uganda, on 8 April, along with several other men suspected of murdering Prosecutor Joan Kagezi who was shot dead on 30 March ahead of the start of a trial into bombings allegedly by Al Shabab in 2010. Kiyemba, who had grown up in the UK, was released from Guantánamo in 2006. He was to be released to the UK; however he was refused entry and was sent to Uganda instead, where he was born. He was not arrested on charges of involvement in the murder of Ms Kagezi but on unspecified and unrelated charges. The US authorities were involved in the swoop which led to the arrests. There has been no further information since as to whether he has been released or charged. Held at Guantànamo for 4 years, Mr Kiyemba was never charged or tried there.
Four of the six prisoners released to Uruguay last year as refugees have been holding a sit-in protest outside the US Embassy in Montevideo since 24 April demanding financial assistance from the US. The four, two Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian, were accepted by the country as refugees and are receiving some aid in that capacity. However, they feel it is not enough and is only being provided for one year and have demanded that the US take responsibility for their situation after having imprisoned them for 12 years without charge or trial and effectively turning them into refugees. The Uruguayan authorities have asked the men to sign documents so that they can receive the assistance they are entitled to, however the men went to the US Embassy on Friday and when they were told that no one would be there until Monday continued their protest. They are demanding to meet officials from inside the embassy and want the US to take responsibility for them.
In a statement the men released on Sunday 26 April, they stated that the US authorities “can’t leave their errors to other people, they should help us with houses and financial support. We think that it is the least they could do.”
Earlier in the month, Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez demanded that Obama gives the former prisoners financial assistance when he met him at the Americas Summit in Panama. Aid and housing is being provided by the UNHCR.
Pre-trial hearings in two separate military commissions at Guantánamo Bay have been cancelled indefinitely. The case of 5 men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York has been cancelled for the third time this year.
Nonetheless, with respect to one of the defendants, Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, on 10 April, the judge released a judgment refusing to order medical care for him, stating he did not have the power to do that. According to the Miami Herald, “While held at CIA secret prisons, he was subject to torture that amounted to rape and as a result has caused him long-term physical problems and continued bleeding, for which he has yet to receive adequate treatment, more than a decade later. When making the request in February, it was the first time his lawyers had spoken about the torture he suffered, following the release of the redacted Senate CIA torture report. His lawyer “specifically cited a reference to an investigation of allegations that CIA agents conducted medically unnecessary rectal exams with excessive force on two detainees, one of them Hawsawi, who afterward suffered an anal fissure, rectal prolapse and haemorrhoids.””
In the case of Abd Al Nashiri, accused of involvement in an attack on a US navy vessel in the Gulf of Aden, off Yemen, in 2000, the case has been adjourned pending two appeals in his case and an MRI scan, although the necessary machinery is not available at Guantánamo. If an MRI scan proves he has brain damage, he may be spared the death penalty.
On 29 April, following a request by his lawyers in March, the military commission judge refused to allow the full US Senate report into CIA torture to be disclosed to his lawyers. The public part of the report shows that Al Nashiri was waterboarded but his lawyers want further evidence of what he suffered at the hands of CIA interrogators when he “disappeared” for several years into CIA secret prisons in Asia and Europe.
Abdul Shalabi, 39, a Saudi prisoner who has been on hunger strike for the past 9 years and is alleged to have been a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden, had his periodic review board hearing on 21 April. He asked to be sent home.
According to information given by a prisoner to lawyer David Remes, at least 14 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are still on hunger strike and are being force fed by nasal feed on a regular basis.
On 24 April, Alberta federal judge June Ross granted former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr bail pending the outcome of his appeal in the US of his military commission conviction there. A further hearing will be held on 5 May to decide the terms of his bail. His lawyer Dennis Edney QC has already offered him accommodation and a university in Edmonton, Alberta, has offered to allow him to enrol as a mature student. The Canadian government, however, has said that it will appeal this decision. For Khadr, this will be the first time since he was 15, in 2002, that he will be outside of a prison environment. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/omar-khadr-granted-bail-but-federal-government-to-appeal-1.3046775
As part of an ongoing investigation into torture flights passing through and refueling at Scottish airports, police in Scotland have said there is inconclusive evidence to say prisoners were on board any of the six flights under investigation, ruling out this line of investigation.
The investigation will continue, however some say that the police have not been thorough enough in their investigation. Police in Scotland have demanded access to the full CIA torture report to help in their investigations.
The LGC April Shut Guantánamo demonstration was attended by 3 people. The May demo will be on Thursday 7 May: https://www.facebook.com/events/950220665011369/
Aisha Maniar from the LGC gave a presentation to the St John’s Amnesty Group in Camden Town about Guantánamo Bay and extraordinary rendition on 16 April.