Sunday, January 31, 2016

LGC Newsletter – January 2016

Guantánamo Bay:
The extralegal US-run prison camp at Guantánamo Bay has now been open longer under the administration of Barack Obama than it was under George Bush. 
Over January, 16 prisoners have been released – the largest number of transfers in one month under Obama – bringing the number of remaining prisoners to 91. As always, not all of the transfers have gone smoothly. The first transfers were on 6 January, of two Saudi-born Yemeni prisoners: Khalid al Dhuby, 34, who was cleared for release in 2006, and Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef, 36, who was cleared for release in 2009. As part of the deal, in return for US aid and cover by the US of their costs, Ghana agreed to take the two prisoners, and former Rwandan prisoners. The agreement is for two years and Ghanaian media has reported that the men have refugee status for that time. However, their move to the country has not been welcomed in many quarters.
The next prisoner to be released on 8 January was Fayiz Al-Kandari, the last Kuwaiti prisoner held at Guantánamo, who was cleared for release by the prisoner review board in 2015. He will have to undergo a rehabilitation programme before going home, but has been reunited with his family and other former prisoners.
Saudi prisoner, Muhammed Abd Al Rahman Awn Al-Shamran, who was also cleared by the prisoner review board last year, was released home on the fourteenth anniversary of Guantánamo opening, 11 January.
A few days later, 10 Yemenis were sent to Oman, which has agreed to settle them until the situation in Yemen is safe enough for them to return home.
On this same day, Barack Obama's plan to close Guantánamo was submitted to Congress. It has yet to be made public but is likely to involve transferring some prisoners to US mainland prison facilities and effectively continuing indefinite detention without charge. Nonetheless, it has been reported that his plans for transfer to the US mainland, which has been blocked for many years by Congress, and could take place through the use of executive action, may be illegal.
The last releases of January were on the 21st when Egyptian prisoner Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed Al Sawah was sent to Bosnia and Yemeni prisoner Abdul Aziz al-Swidi was sent to Montenegro. A third prisoner, Yemeni Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir, refused to leave Guantánamo at the last minute if he was not going to be reunited with his family and would be sent to a country he does not know. His lawyer said that he is fearful of what will happen there. The country was not identified.
34 of the remaining prisoners are cleared for release and no schedule has been set for when there are likely to be any more transfers, either to home or third countries.

Two more prisoners have been cleared for release by the prisoner review board in January: Yemeni Zahir Hamdoun, 36, was the first to be cleared.
This was followed by the clearance of his compatriot Mustafa Abd al-Qawi Abd al-Aziz al-Shamiri, 37, who is reported to have been held for so long due to a case of mistaken identity. At his board hearing in December, allegations of him being a senior Al-Qaeda trainer were dismissed. This does not, however, explain why he was held for so long or continues to be held. His lawyers have said that he will go to any country that accepts him.
Three prisoners have come before the review board in January: Yemenis Majid Mahmud Adbu Ahmed and Yassim Qasim Mohammed Ismail Qasim, and Afghan Haji Hamidullah.

Former Guantánamo prisoner Younis Chekkouri, who was released home to Morocco in September 2015 where he has since been held in prison without charge, was due to have a hearing on 6 January. This hearing was put back to 26 January, and in a fourth delay, without any charges having been brought against Chekkouri, the judge has now put the hearing back to 9 February. His Moroccan lawyer claims that the accusations against him do not fall under Moroccan anti-terrorism laws.
On 29 January, former prisoner Omar Khadr had his bail conditions in Canada reduced to allow him to stay out past his midnight curfew for work or educational purposes, as he studies to become an emergency medical responder. Further issues will be discussed at a hearing next month. Khadr was released on bail in May 2015 as he appeals his military tribunal conviction in the US. The new Canadian government has been asked to drop an appeal against his bail status but it has not yet responded.

Since late December, new rules for psychologists from the American Psychological Association (APA) mean that they can no longer treat prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, only soldiers. This has meant that psychologists have been withdrawn from a large number of activities involving prisoners at the prison. However, the Pentagon has since asked for the use of psychologists to be reinstated and the rules to be relaxed.

Extraordinary Rendition:
Former British citizen Mahdi Hashi, a victim of extraordinary rendition, after he was kidnapped in Djibouti in 2012, who claims that he was tortured and abused with British and US knowledge when he “disappeared” before resurfacing months later in FBI custody, was sentenced to 9 years by a New York court on 29 January on charges of supporting the Al Shabaab militia group in Somalia, where he was born. Following his “disappearance”, he was stripped of his British nationality and an appeal is still pending before the UK courts.

LGC Activities:
The LGC marked the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay in 2002 with a candlelight vigil – “History in the Making” – outside the US Embassy. More than 100 people joined the action on a cold evening and demonstrators were joined by a number of former British national and resident prisoners, including Shaker Aamer and Moazzam Begg who spoke on the open mic. The names of the remaining 103 prisoners at the time were read out and other prisoner campaigners spoke as well and joined the demonstration. A full report can be read at: 

The February Shut Guantánamo demonstration is on Thursday 4 February at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park (opposite Marble Arch). As well as being the first monthly demo of 2016, this event also marks the ninth anniversary of our regular demonstrations outside the US Embassy, calling for Guantánamo to close and in solidarity with the prisoners. Please join us if you can. For more details:

The LGC (@shutguantanamo) is continuing to hold weekly #GitmObama Twitter storms to raise awareness about Guantánamo prisoners every Monday at 9pm GMT. A special Twitter storm was held on the 14th anniversary. A pastebin is available which is updated weekly with the latest information and tweets to raise awareness about Guantánamo. Please join us online if you can!

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the London Guantánamo Campaign! We’ve been busy in that time, campaigning for 8 British residents, other Guantánamo prisoners, against torture and other prisons in the so-called war on terror, and supporting other prisoner campaigns. You can read about our early days and unique campaigning methods here – the history of the LGC during the Bush years A further history of the LGC, under Obama will be available in March, when the LGC officially turns 10!

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