Monday, November 30, 2015

LGC Newsletter – November 2015

British residents:

Former British resident Ahmed Belbacha, who returned to his native Algeria in March 2013, was given a three-year suspended sentence and fined 500,000 Algerian dinars on the charge of membership of a foreign terrorist organisation in Algeria. In 2009, while still held at Guantánamo, he was sentenced to 20 years in absentia on the same charges. He was arrested upon return to the country but a judge ordered his release and demanded proof of the charges for his case to be reheard.

Guantánamo Bay:
On 13 November, 5 Yemeni prisoners were released to Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There are currently 107 prisoners at Guantánamo. The five men are Ali Ahmad Mohammed Al Razihi, Khalid Abd Al Jabbar Mohammed Uthman Al Qadasi, Adil Said Al Hajj Ubayd Al Busays, Sulayman Awad Bin Uqayl Al Nahdi and Fahmi Salem Said Al Asani, who are all considered low-level prisoners and have long been cleared for release. As with all prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay, the men are subject to restrictions imposed by the US, and are not free to meet people and have their movements monitored, although the UAE authorities have not imprisoned them and do not plan to prosecute them for any reason.

Sentencing in the case of Majid Khan, 35, who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in February 2012, has been delayed to 2018. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for February 2016, after he pleaded guilty to moving funds to finance a bombing in Indonesia in 2003. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 prior to the bombing and was the last person to be tried before a Guantánamo military tribunal, during which he pleaded guilty under a plea bargain deal. Following arrest he disappeared into the CIA’s global secret prison network. The US Senate’s partial report into CIA torture last year shed some light on the horrific physical, psychological and sexual torture he was subjected to in order to coerce him to confess.

The periodic review board for “forever prisoners” who are deemed too dangerous to release but cannot be tried has cleared another Yemeni prisoner for release. Mansoor Abdul Rahman al Dayfi arrived at Guantánamo on 9 February 2002. He has never been charged or tried. There are currently 48 prisoners cleared for release, the majority of who are from Yemen.

Younis Chekkouri, who was released to Morocco in September, remains in jail there. A hearing scheduled for 4 November has been put back to 3 December. He remains detained without charge or trial.

Following a similar incident involving former Australian prisoner Mamdouh Habib, on 2 November, former French prisoner, Mourad Benchellali, who was released without charge or trial in 2005, was arrested as he entered Canada where he was invited to give a talk and take part in a documentary on fighting extremism. Earlier this year, he was prevented from boarding a plane to Canada from France as he is on a US no-fly list and the plane would pass through US airspace. This time he was arrested by Canadian border agents on suspicion of posing a threat to national security, even though he was invited to speak at a peace conference and about preventing youth extremism by speaking of his own experiences. He was not placed in immigration detention but sent to jail, with his French lawyers unaware of his location. On 4 November, he returned home to France voluntarily. Weeks later, he spoke at a forum at the Council of Europe about similar topics where he faced no such hostility.

On 5 November, following Barack Obama’s veto the first time, amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act Bill 2016, which budgets military spending for the year, were passed but did not affect the provisions on Guantánamo, which exclude transfers to the US mainland and also a legal prohibition on transfers to Yemen, Libya, Syria and Somalia. The amendments and the original veto related to spending provisions. Obama was not expected to use Guantánamo as an excuse to veto the bill again and instead signed the provisions into law on 25 November. Nonetheless, he issued a statement at the same time criticising the restriction this allegedly places on his ability to close Guantánamo, and highlighting the fact that executive action – to bring prisoners to the US mainland – is still an option available to him. Each year the US government passes the same restriction on prisoner transfers to the US under this law and in actual fact changes the situation of almost all the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay in no tangible way.
In early November, the Obama administration again stated that it would soon present a plan to close Guantánamo to Congress, yet less than two weeks later this was delayed, again, and indefinitely. Obama has been claiming that a plan to close Guantánamo (which is actually just likely to alter its address) since the summer.
On two separate occasions this month, in a televised interview and on a trip to Manila, Philippines, Barack Obama restated his famous claim that he will close Guantánamo and in Manila stated that by January 2016 there should be less than 100 prisoners held there. In 2009, Barack Obama had promised, and signed a provision to that end, that Guantánamo would not exist by January 2010.

Extraordinary Rendition:
On 9 November, the UK Supreme Court heard a claim by Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Bouchar, who were rendered to torture by the Libyan authorities under Colonel Gaddafi in 2004 with the cooperation of the UK and US authorities. In 2013, the High Court in London ruled that they could not bring a claim against the former Labour government and intelligence officers, such as former MI6 head Sir Mark Allen, as it could damage diplomatic relations and national interests. Having won an appeal, the case is currently before the Supreme Court to decide whether or not it can proceed. The couple would like an apology and an admission of what was done to them.

LGC Activities:
Our final Shut Guantánamo demonstration for this year is on Thursday 3 December at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Sq and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, Marble Arch. Join us:

The LGC will mark the first anniversary of the partial publication of the US Senate’s CIA Torture Report in December 2014 with a panel discussion on 8 December focusing on the UK’s involvement and the personal, community and military ramifications of the use of torture. Please join us and our expert panel of speakers for a necessary discussion:

The London Guantánamo Campaign is continuing its weekly #GitmObama Twitter to raise awareness about the plight and existence of Guantánamo prisoners. Tweets that can be used during the action with this hashtag are provided in a pastebin (click on it and copy & paste the tweets) and everyone everywhere (who is on Twitter) is welcome to join in. The twitter storms are held on Mondays at 9pm GMT/ 4pm EST / 1pm PST. Please check our Twitter @shutguantanamo for further details and the pastebin to take part.

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