Tuesday, May 31, 2016

LGC Newsletter – May 2016


Guantánamo Bay:
Nine prisoners have had their status reviewed by the Guantánamo Periodic Review Board (PRB) this month.

The first was Afghan prisoner Karim Bostan, 46, on 3 May. Bostan has been held at Guantánamo since 2003 and has never been charged or tried. His lawyer claims he would just like to return to his family and business in Afghanistan whereas the US military claims he might have led an Al Qaeda cell in an attack in Khost in 2003. No evidence of this has ever been produced. The US military has nonetheless found him to be highly compliant and cooperative while held at Guantánamo but he has provided no useful intelligence.
The next hearing was on 5 May for Yemeni Sanad Ali Yislam Al Kazimi, 46, who was arrested in 2003 by the UAE authorities. The US claims he was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and had joined an Al Qaeda cell in the UAE that smuggled explosives. He has never been charged or tried.
On 10 May Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu, 42, the only Kenyan national held at Guantánamo had his review hearing. He has been held there since 2007. Accused of involvement in Al Qaeda operations in East Africa, including bombings in Kenya in 2002, he was arrested by the Kenyan authorities and handed over to the US. At Guantánamo, he has been highly compliant and has served as a cook for other prisoners. He has never been charged. His lawyers said that he would like to return home to his fishing and diving business.
Yemeni prisoner Abd Al-Salam Al-Hilah, 48, had his review hearing on 12 May. A businessman, due to his influence and links to key tribal, political and intelligence figures in various Middle Eastern countries, including the former Yemeni president, Al-Hilah’s continuing detention is considered to relate more to his value as an intelligence asset than as a threat. On a business trip in Egypt in 2002, he was kidnapped and rendered to Afghanistan and arrived at Guantánamo in 2004.
On the same day, Al-Hilah saw a motion he had filed to see the evidence the US government holds against him shown to him dismissed, as well as the factual basis for its allegations against him.
Yemeni Muhammed Rajab Sadiq Abu Ghanim had his review on 17 May. Another alleged Bin Laden bodyguard, he was detained and sold to the US trying to escape to Pakistan in late 2001. He claims he was working for a charity in Afghanistan, whereas the US claims he was part of a terrorist organization. He has been held at Guantánamo since 2002 and the allegations have never been proved or resulted in charges. He has been a compliant prisoner and according to his lawyers the time he has spent in Guantánamo has exposed him to American values and culture and given him a greater appreciation of Americans.
39-year old Saudi Jabran al Qahtani had his review hearing on 19 May. He was arrested by the Pakistani authorities and sold to the US in 2002. An electrical engineer, the US claims he used his skills to support terrorist organisations when he went to Afghanistan in 2001. His lawyers claim he was young and naïve at the time. He had no prior military or combat training. He has never been charged at Guantánamo.
On 24 May, 35-year old Algerian Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush has his hearing. He was arrested along with Abu Zubaydah in 2002. He has not shown a great interest in being released and has asked not to be returned to Algeria, fearing arrest if he is returned there.
On 26 May, 43-year old Algerian Sufiyan Ibu Muhammad Barhumi had his review hearing. According to the US military, he was radicalized in London in the 1990s and then illegally fled to Afghanistan for weapons training so he could go and fight in Chechnya. He claims that he only wanted to fight in Chechnya and has no problem with the US. He wishes to return home to his mother in Algeria.
Yemeni Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, 34, is the eighth prisoner to have his review this month on 31 May. The US claims he is a low-level militant who has offered little information even though he has been highly compliant at Guantánamo.
Three more such review hearings are scheduled for the first half of June.
Over the past month, only one prisoner has found out the result of his status review: on 19 May, Afghan prisoner Obaidullah was cleared for release. He was kidnapped from his home in Afghanistan in 2002. He has never been charged or tried and it is not clear whether Afghanistan will make efforts to repatriate its remaining prisoners at Guantánamo.
The Obama administration has reported that up to two dozen prisoners – almost the total (28) currently cleared for release are due to be transferred in the next two months, although none has been cleared for actual release yet.

On 5 May, the first anniversary of former prisoner Omar Khadr being released on bail – his first taste of some form of freedom as an adult and since 2002 – he celebrated by having some of his bail conditions removed or relaxed. In light of Khadr’s recent engagement to be married, he had his nightly curfew removed and can change his permanent address with one week’s notice to his bail supervisor. He also no longer needs court permission to travel within Canada; he can do so with the approval of his bail supervisor. The judge also “ruled that Khadr can have unfettered contact with his mother when he travels to the Toronto area later this month to spend time with his family. However, there are still restrictions in place regarding contact with one of his sisters, who is currently being detained in Turkey over issues with her visa.
In a statement Khadr made to the court, he wrote: “I have no anger towards anyone and I have been getting on with my life. I am proud and happy to be a Canadian citizen living in Canada.” In the statement, he said he had finished his exams to become an emergency medical responder and is working towards certification; he is also close to obtaining the equivalent of a high school diploma.
In the meantime, no progress has been made in Khadr’s appeal case against his 2010 military commission conviction. Nonetheless, on 24 May, Khadr lost a case in the US to have one judge removed from his appeal case due to the fact that he is serving as a civilian judge in a military commission review court but works as a civilian lawyer at the same time. Khadr’s lawyer stated this was unconstitutional. The judge hearing this case refused to consider the dismissal but said that it raised important questions that the US government and Congress must consider about the appointment of civilian judges in military cases.
A military nurse who was suspended from his position after refusing to force feed hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo has been allowed to return to work. The case took two years to resolve and he is currently working at a navy facility in New England. There are currently a handful of prisoners still on hunger strike.

Ahead of pre-trial hearings in the case of 5 men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001, which resumed on 30 May after a 3-month break, lawyers for key defendant Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, on 11 May, demanded that the military judge and the entire prosecution team be removed from the case as important classified evidence has been destroyed. They also asked for the proceedings to be put on permanent hold due to breaches of the constitutional rights of the defendants with respect to the death penalty case against them.
At the current 5-day hearing, which started on 30 May, 42 motions have been filed by the defence and will focus on the treatment of the prisoners in secret CIA-run prisons around the world. There is a possibility that two other prisoners, unrelated to the case, may be called to testify about conditions in these prisons, including Abu Zubaydah, who has not been seen since 2002. During the first day of the hearing, one of the defendants asked for his entire defence team to be removed.
One of the defendants, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, was allegedly tortured in Lithuania, which the Lithuanian government denies. Its investigation into the country’s running of torture facilities for the CIA has not been thorough. His lawyer in Lithuania has thus filed a petition for him to be given victim status so that his lawyers can have access to the case file. She has also requested the investigation to be expanded. Another prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, has a case pending against Lithuania at the European Court of Human Rights. He and another prisoner previously won a case against Poland at the European Court of the torture they faced at a secret CIA prison there in 2003.
Prior to the pre-trial hearing, on 12 May, lawyers for another defendant, Ammar al-Baluchi, requested that Juan Mendez, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, be given access to Camp 7, where he and other prisoners who were subjected to years of abuse in CIA secret prisons, are held away from other prisoners and with limited access to the outside world. Mendez has consistently demanded access to the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay but has refused to take the ‘trip’ journalists get excited about whereby they are permitted to view the prisoners like zoo exhibits and without access to the prisoners and to be able to interview them.

Another pre-trial hearing was briefly held on 16-17 May in the case of Abd al-Hadi Al-Iraqi. The case has now been set back until 11 July. During the hearing he told the court he wants to be known by his real name: Nashwan al-Tamir, with his lawyers claiming that the other names that have been used have been given to him erroneously. The change of name caused some confusion in the court; his lawyers seemed to suggest that the wrong name had been deliberately ascribed to accuse Al-Tamir of offences possibly carried out by someone else with those names.
During the hearing, al-Tamir also maintained his claim that he wants a civilian lawyer, which he has been denied, as he is not facing the death penalty.

The Islamabad High Court has accepted a petition to consider ordering the Pakistani government to seek access to prisoner Ghulam Ahmed under the Vienna Convention, but has set the hearing back by one month. The petition also asks for actions against former president Parvez Musharraf who sold Ahmed to the US.

Extraordinary Rendition:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lost a lawsuit calling for the full release of the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report into CIA torture. In December 2014, a redacted executive summary of the report was released – 500 pages of the 6000 page document.

The judgment by the European Court of Human Rights ordering the Italian government to pay compensation to rendition victim Abu Omar, who was snatched from the streets of Milan in 2003 and rendered to torture in Egypt, is now final as the authorities did not appeal the decision. In February 2016, the Court found Italy guilty of having violated Omar’s human rights when it cooperated with the rendition to torture and failed to provide him with adequate legal relief afterwards.

LGC Activities:
The May Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 5 May. The June demonstration is on 2 May at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch and is a special demonstration in solidarity with Mauritanian prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi where we will be reading from his best-seller written inside Guantánamo, Guantánamo Diary as this date coincides with his periodic review board hearing:  

The LGC was interviewed as part of a news feature on Russia Today about prisoners cleared for release through the periodic review board system. https://www.rt.com/usa/344141-guantanamo-prisoner-cleared-release/

The LGC will have details available very soon of its plans to mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on the afternoon of Sunday 26 June. Please watch this space!

The LGC (@shutguantanamo) is continuing to hold weekly #GitmObama Twitter storms to raise awareness about Guantánamo prisoners every Monday at 9pm BST. 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!

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