Monday, April 04, 2016
LGC Newsletter – March 2016
Former Guantánamo military commander, retired US General Geoffrey Miller, failed to appear at a court hearing in Paris on 1 March, after he was summoned in February to answer questions about the torture and arbitrary detention of three French nationals at Guantánamo Bay, where they were held from 2002 to 2005. The summons and hearing followed investigations that showed there are potential charges to answer related to the abuse and torture of these men. Lawyers from the US NGO Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights are now seeking a warrant for his arrest to compel him to appear. They issued a joint statement after his no-show, which says: “Miller’s absence speaks volumes about the Obama administration’s continued unwillingness to confront America’s torture legacy. The administration not only refuses to investigate U.S. officials like Miller for torture, it apparently remains unwilling to cooperate with international torture investigations like the one in France. Geoffrey Miller has much to answer for regarding the treatment of detainees during his tenure.”
The Obama administration is pressing ahead with its 4-point plan unveiled in February with respect to Guantánamo.
At the end of March, Pentagon officials stated that it plans to transfer around one dozen Guantánamo prisoners who have been cleared for release in April to two countries that have agreed to take them. This includes Yemeni hunger striker Tariq Ba Odah who, as a result of his long-term hunger strike, weighs less than 40kg. 37 prisoners are currently cleared for release.
Germany has said that it may consider taking some prisoners if asked by the US. It has already taken in two prisoners – a stateless Palestinian and a Syrian – in 2010 in addition to one German national.
In addition, a number of prisoners whose status has not been resolved have had dates set for them to appear before the administrative periodic review board, which decides whether prisoners can be cleared for released or must remain at Guantánamo. This procedure was introduced in 2011 and was supposed to have been completed for all prisoners whose status had not been resolved by the end of that year. Among those who will be brought before the review board is Mauritanian prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi who will have a review in June. As well as the author of the best-selling Guantánamo Diary, in 2015 he lost a court case to force the US military to give him a review of his status. According to lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “More than anything, Mohamedou wants to show the board that he poses no threat to the United States and should be allowed to return home to his family where he belongs.” The ACLU also states that “Slahi was one of two so-called “Special Projects” whose treatment then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally approved. The abuse included beatings, extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, sexual molestation, frigid rooms, shackling in stress positions, death threats against him, and threats against his mother.”
Three prisoners had hearings before the prisoner review board in March to consider their status and whether or not they can be cleared for release.
On 1 March, Yemeni Suhayl Abdul Anam al Sharab had his review. His lawyer submitted a statement of his behalf stating he wishes to be reunited with his family and get on with his own life:
On 8 March, 68-year old Saifullah Paracha, the oldest detainee at Guantánamo had his status reviewed. A businessman, Paracha was kidnapped in Bangkok in 2003 while on a business trip and is alleged to have links to Al Qaeda. His lawyers are fairly confident that he will be released given his age and his worsening health, which rule him out as a threat to the US. http://www.dawn.com/news/1244538/gitmo-detainee-saifullah-paracha-gets-first-parole-hearing
Yemeni Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al Hajj also had his review hearing in March. The US has alleged that he has links to Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations.
Over the past 14 years, none of these men have faced charges in spite of the allegations made against them, which have not been substantiated.
In addition, the review board rendered three decisions with respect to earlier hearings. It decided to continue the detention of Yemenis Yassim Qasim Mohammed Ismail Qasim http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN522/160303_U_ISN522_FINAL_DETERMINATION_PUBLIC.pdf and Mohammed Al-Ansi
http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN029/160323_U_ISN029_FINAL_DETERMINATION_PUBLIC.pdf. The two men’s cases will be eligible for further review in 6 months’ time. The board cleared Yemeni Ayub Murshid Ali Salih
The Indonesian government has stated that it does not want Riduan Isamuddin, a.k.a. Hambali, an Indonesian national held at Guantánamo, back if the prison closes. Hambali was rendered in Thailand in 2003 and “disappeared” into secret CIA prisons before being taken to Guantánamo in 2006 as a high-value prisoner. Alleged to have links to the 9/11 hijackers and the mastermind behind the 2002 bombing in Bali, and described by former Australian prime minister John Howard as “almost certainly the ultimate mastermind” of the latter attack in 2003, he has never faced any charges at Guantánamo. He was named in the 2014 Senate report into CIA torture.
Although the Indonesian government alleges that his release to the country would give a boost to domestic terrorist organisations, it may also wish to avoid questions about its role in the rendition and torture of its own citizens.
One month after Barack Obama unveiled his 4-point plan on the future of Guantánamo Bay the issue was discussed for the first time with the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington by Paul M. Lewis, the US Department of Defense’s special envoy for Guantánamo closure, and Lee Wolosky, the State Department’s special envoy for Guantánamo closure. They stated that closing Guantánamo was a matter of national security. Lewis said that Obama’s 4-point plan will ““continue to transfer [detainees], accelerate the [Periodic Review Board] process, look for individual dispositions and, most importantly, work with Congress to find a location to transfer everybody from Guantanamo safely and securely.”
A two-week pre-trial hearing in the case of five men accused of involvement in 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001 due to start on 4 April was abruptly cancelled by the military judge just days before after receiving a secret filing in the case from the Defense department which may impact the hearing. There have been no hearings for the past two months due to cancellations. This case is due to be heard next in early June, although two other military tribunal cases are scheduled for hearing in May.
The March Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 3 March and was exceptionally held in the evening to protest Barack Obama’s 4-point plan on the future of Guantánamo which does not include an end to indefinite arbitrary detention. The April demonstration is on 7 April at the usual time of 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch https://www.facebook.com/events/1099833546704485/
The LGC (@shutguantanamo) is continuing to hold weekly #GitmObama Twitter storms to raise awareness about Guantánamo prisoners every Monday at 9pm GMT. The pastebin is available http://pastebin.com/zpx5F7ab which is updated weekly with the latest information and tweets to raise awareness about Guantánamo. Please join us online if you can!