Tuesday, September 01, 2015

LGC Newsletter – August 2015

Guantánamo Bay:
The main news about Guantánamo was the announcement by the White House that it will present a plan to close Guantánamo to Congress in early September: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pentagon-to-release-gitmo-closure-plan-after-august-recess/article/2569950
Although 52 of the remaining 116 prisoners have been cleared for release, including Shaker Aamer, no transfers have been made since June. In August, it emerged the delay is due to the new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter refusing to sign off their release. All previous releases had been signed by his predecessor Chuck Hagel. This is in spite of the fact that earlier in August the new envoy for the closure of Guantánamo Lee Wolosky stated that he had secured deals with around one dozen countries to accept at least half of those men.
For the remaining prisoners who are not facing trial and have not been cleared for release, the “forever prisoners”, it appears that Obama’s plan will not involve ending their 14 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial but simply shifting the physical prison at Guantánamo Bay to the US mainland, keeping the men in existing military prisons where they will remain under military control and will not be subject to potential trial in federal courts. The plan is not to close Guantánamo but to shift it and potentially franchise it. It has been reported that the Pentagon has already made visits to facilities in South Carolina and will visit others in Kansas and four other potential sites. Some media have reported that it is possible that a new Guantánamo will be built from scratch on military-owned land. There do not appear to be plans to release these prisoners. However, a potential block to the forthcoming plan is whether Congress will allow prisoners to be transferred to the US mainland.
The governors of South Carolina and Kansas have stated that they will block efforts to send the prisoners there and have threatened to sue if the plan goes ahead. Mistakenly calling the prisoners “terrorists”, it must be pointed out that there are no terrorists at Guantánamo Bay; the few prisoners who have been convicted have not been convicted of terrorism charges.
It has also been revealed that out of the remaining 116 prisoners, only 3 were captured on the battlefield by the US. This includes those accused of involvement and facing trial for the 9/11 attacks. The others, like the majority of Guantánamo prisoners overall, were sold to the US military by allied Afghan warlords, many of whom in practice bore little difference to the Taliban.

On 5 August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a new report “Towards the Closure of Guantanamo” which condemns the US for its human rights abuses at Guantánamo, the discriminatory nature of the detention of Muslim men and demands its closure without further delay:

Pre-trial hearings for five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks was cancelled yet again. A hearing scheduled from 24 August to early September was cancelled, meaning that no hearings have been held at all this year.

Afghan prisoner Mohammed Kamin, 37, had his hearing before the periodic review board on 17 August. He arrived at Guantánamo in 2004, was subject to charges that were later dropped and never pursued and has been described as “one of the most compliant detainees at Guantánamo”.

In June, AlJazeera showed film footage on its Arabic channel, reportedly showing a raid by Slovakian police on the home of former Guantánamo prisoner Hisham Sliti, a Tunisian, who was released there last year. Although he is supposed to be resettled, he is at a centre for asylum seekers. The video, shot by another resident on a mobile phone, showed the police violently entering, sounds of shouting and later images of broken household items from inside, as well as Sliti being led away by the police. Slovak media have also alleged he was tortured. The police deny all the claims. Amnesty Slovakia has written to the government demanding an independent and thorough investigation of the incident.

Lawyers for prisoner Tariq Ba Odah, a 36-year old Yemeni, who was cleared for release years ago, have lost their legal case to have him released on medical grounds. He has been on hunger strike since 2007 against his detention and continually force fed. He currently weighs 34kg. Although his lawyers say he is poor health, the US military maintains that he is fine.

Extraordinary Rendition:
Former Bagram prisoner, Russian national Irek Hamidullin, was found guilty by a jury of all charges including providing material support to a terrorist organisation and trying to destroy US military aircraft in Afghanistan in 2009, where he was arrested. He was held without charge at Bagram until 2014 when he was transferred to the US and to the FBI to stand trial in a federal court for an attack in which his alleged Taliban co-defendants were all killed and no US personnel or tanks were harmed. During his trial, he did not speak. His lawyers claimed there was insufficient evidence to back up the evidence. He was found guilty on 7 August and will be sentenced later this year. He faces a life sentence.

LGC Activities:
The LGC August Shut Guantánamo demonstration was attended by 8 people in the pouring rain. The September demo will be on Thursday 3 September: https://www.facebook.com/events/1482180842105413/

The LGC will be holding its second campaigns meeting this year on Monday 14 September at 6pm in Friends House, Euston Road, NW1 from 6pm onwards. Please join us and get involved in our work to close Guantánamo. We will meet in the café. Please e-mail us for more details. All are welcome.

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