Sunday, November 01, 2015

LGC Newsletter – October 2015

British residents:
The last British resident held at Guantánamo Bay returned home to the UK on Friday 30 October. Shaker Aamer arrived on a private jet at the Biggin Hill Airfield shortly before lunchtime where he met his legal team and was then taken to a private hospital to receive urgent medical attention following his 14-year ordeal of detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo Bay. He has been reunited with his wife and children, including his 13-year old son who he has met for the first time.
Shaker Aamer will require a considerable amount of medical care and specialist rehabilitation therapy. His British lawyers have reported that he is seeking an inquiry into the British government’s role in his ordeal and questioning by British intelligence services while he was detained.
Upon his release, Shaker Aamer issued the following statement:
“The reason I have been strong is because of the support of people so strongly devoted to the truth. If I was the fire to be lit to tell the truth, it was the people who protected the fire from the wind. My thanks go to Allah first, second to my wife, my family, to my kids and then to my lawyers who did everything they could to carry the word to the world. I feel obliged to every individual who fought for justice not just for me but to bring an end to Guantanamo. Without knowing of their fight I might have given up more than once; I am overwhelmed by what people have done by their actions, their thoughts and their prayers and without their devotion to justice I would not be here in Britain now.
The reality may be that we cannot establish peace but we can establish justice. If there is anything that will bring this world to peace it is to remove injustice.”
The London Guantánamo Campaign’s statement on his release can be read here:
Aisha Maniar from the LGC spoke to Russia Today UK about his release and what lies ahead for the remaining 112 prisoners:

Although there are no longer any British residents in Guantánamo Bay, the LGC will continue to update this section with any relevant news concerning those who have been released. The release of all the British residents from Guantánamo was one of the campaign’s three goals when set up in 2006. We are pleased that after a decade one of our main aims has been achieved!

Guantánamo Bay:
Following a bail decision in September easing conditions for Omar Khadr as he appeals his US military commission conviction from Canada, on 1 October, Omar Khadr travelled to Toronto by aeroplane with his lawyer Dennis Edney to meet his grandparents, the first time he has met family in person since his release from Guantánamo Bay in 2012. As part of his bail conditions, access to his family is restricted.
Following the election of Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on 19 October (he will officially assume the position on 4 November), Dennis Edney told reporters that the new Liberal Prime Minister could show his commitment to civil liberties and breaking with the policies of his predecessor Stephen Harper by dropping the appeal against Omar Khadr being granted bail pending his US appeal. Bail with conditions was granted in May this year and no date has been set for appeal.

Afghan prisoner Mohamed Kamin whose case was heard by the periodic review board in August has been cleared by the review board. He was brought to Guantánamo in 2004 and was once considered for a war trial. He was charged but the case was dropped in 2009. This decision means that 52 prisoners are now cleared for release and 28 are classified as ‘forever prisoners’.

Although Obama failed to outline his promised plan to close Guantánamo to Congress in September, in October the Pentagon carried out visits to potential sites in Colorado to house up to 60 prisoners the US may transfer to the mainland to continue their indefinite detention without charge or trial.
On 22 October, Barack Obama made the rare move of vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2016, which authorises the military budget for the coming year and has for many years placed restrictions on transfers from Guantánamo. Proposed clauses would have made it even harder for Barack Obama to close Guantánamo.
Although he gave Guantánamo as the reason for his veto, spending provisions also played a large part. A new budget deal has since been negotiated but the provisions concerning Guantánamo remain the same and are not expected to change. One Congress member said that the NDAA “provisions on Guantanamo are the "exact same language" Obama has signed into law in defense bills over the past five years.”
A vote is scheduled for 5 November to override Obama’s veto and while the spending amendments are likely to be incorporated, with no changes likely to be made concerning Guantánamo, it remains to be seen whether Obama will exercise his power to veto again over Guantánamo.

At a hearing on 22 October for former Guantánamo prisoner Younis Chekkouri, who was released last month but continues to be held in prison in Morocco and potentially faces terrorism charges, lawyers presented a letter from the US authorities showing that all charges had been dropped against him in 2011. In order to consider this new information and other information from the US, the judge set back a date to hear the charges against him to 4 November, citing a need for more information from the US on links it alleges he had to Moroccan terrorist groups. He remains in jail.

Shaker Aamer is not the only prisoner who was released from Guantánamo this month. On 28 October, Ahmed Ould Abd al Aziz, 45, was released to Mauritania. He had been cleared for release in 2009. Since his return, the government has announced that he faces no charges or detention and has returned to his family. The only remaining Mauritanian prisoner in Guantánamo Bay is Guantánamo Diary author Mohamedou  Ould Slahi

Former Australian Guantánamo prisoner Mamdouh Habib and his wife Maha were arrested and prevented from entering Turkey on 29 October. They had travelled to the country from Lebanon and were detained and questioned at Istanbul airport about past allegations that he was an “Al Qaeda terrorist trainer”.  Their passports were temporarily confiscated and they were then returned to Lebanon. The couple is reported to be in the Middle East as Mr Habib, a joint Egyptian-Australian national, is taking legal action in Egypt against his rendition and the complicity of Australian intelligence (ASIO). The Turkish authorities named the Australian authorities in preventing their entry to the country.
Earlier that week, in ongoing legal action to make the Australian government disclosed documents related to its complicity in the torture of David Hicks, the Australian Information Commissioner ordered the office of the Prime Minister to disclose the documents as there is no practical reason to refuse to do so. A similar order made in June 2015 has yet to be complied with by the Australian government.

Pre-trial hearings continued on 22 October in the military tribunal case of five prisoners alleged to have links to the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York. Following initial problems, the hearing was held and an application by one of the defendants, Walid bin Al-Attash, to fire and replace his current lawyer was rejected. If granted, this would have further delayed the hearings by months.

Extraordinary Rendition:
Following the publication of the US Senate report into CIA torture in December 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is bringing a lawsuit against two psychologists, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, on behalf of three victims: Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, who died at the secret ‘Salt Pit’ prison: The crimes against humanity they are accused of being involved in include “water torture, forcing prisoners into boxes, and chaining prisoners in painful stress positions to walls”. The two surviving men continue to suffer physical and psychological damage as a result of their ordeals, details of which can be read in this article:

LGC Activities:
The November Shut Guantánamo demo will be on Thursday 5 November:

The London Guantánamo Campaign is continuing its weekly #GitmObama Twitter storms since Barack Obama’s failure to announce a plan to close Guantánamo in September. 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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