Thursday, September 29, 2016

LGC Newsletter – September 2016

Guantánamo Bay:

In early September, the US military announced that it had closed the notorious maximum security Camp 5 at Guantánamo on 19 August. The camp, built in 2004 for $17 million, was used to house non-compliant prisoners and hunger strikers, often in solitary confinement. A small number of prisoners who remained at the camp were transferred to Camp 6 which now holds around 40 prisoners, over half of whom are cleared for release. The US military plans to refurbish the camp and turn it into a medical centre, proving that there are no plans to close the detention facility. The closure of the camp means that staff numbers have been downsized too, by around 400 less staff, or around 1500 personnel to monitor 61 prisoners.

On 8 September, all initial periodic review board hearings for prisoners not cleared for release or subject to trial were completed. Hearings were held in September for Pakistani prisoner Mohammed Ahmad Rabbani on 1st September, whom some sources falsely claimed was due to be released. Wrongly assumed to be an Arab, as he is fluent in Arabic, he was arrested in his native Pakistan and arrived at Guantánamo in 2004. He is still on hunger strike and while his lawyers claimed during the hearing that he would like to return to his family in Pakistan if released, the US military claimed he would like to be sent to Malaysia.
The final initial hearing was held for Saudi Hassan Muhammad Ali Bin Attash, the youngest prisoner held at Guantánamo, aged 33, on 8 September. The US military claims he was a facilitator and weapons expert for Al Qaeda. It also stated that he had been non-compliant with the guards at Guantánamo. His counsel reported that he has always been found to be a pleasant person and that he is interested in studying and receiving an education upon release; he would like to be returned to Saudi Arabia.
Decisions were made in the cases of several prisoners who had their review hearings in August. The board decided that Afghan prisoner Muhammad Rahim should remain detained largely due to the threat he poses to the USA based on intelligence he may have about possible risks to the USA in 2001 and due to his refusal to admit any complicity and relationship with Al Qaeda. The board also decided to continue the detention of Malaysian prisoners Mohd Farik bin Amin and Bashir bin Lap and Libyan Mustafa Faraj Muhammad Masud al-Jadid al-Uzaybi. It is worth noting that all four men were subject to the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme; Muhammad Rahim was the last person to enter it in 2004. All have been severely tortured in various ways, including physical, sexual and psychological torture, at secret CIA facilities in different countries for years prior to their arrival at Guantánamo. The US thus does not have an interest in releasing individuals who could disclose sensitive information about the torture and torture experimentation they have suffered at the hands of the US authorities.
The initial review has so far seen 23 prisoners determined to pose a continued threat to the US on a non-legal and arbitrary basis. The next set of – second round – full review hearings are due to commence on 18 October with Yemeni prisoner Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi.

A three-day pre-trial hearing was held on 6-9 September in the military commission of Abd Al-Nashiri, accusing of bombing a US naval ship in the Gulf of Aden in the 1990s. This follows an 18-month break as the federal appeals court ruled in August not to halt the military commission as it has jurisdiction to hear the case and that any issues on the legality of proceedings could be appealed after judgment is made in the case by the military court; the trial is unlikely to start for a few more years. Various pre-trial issues of legality of the case and the composition of the defence and prosecution, which has changed in the interim 18 months, were discussed. Al-Nashiri’s lawyers said they would appeal the August ruling.

A brief hearing was held on 13 September for Majid Khan, who following three years of torture at secret CIA facilities, entered a secret guilty plea in 2012, the only previous time he appeared in court, amid charges of helping to finance a 2003 terrorist attack in Indonesia. Sentencing under the plea deal, which will see him serve a 19-year sentence, is due to take place in 2018. However, since his guilty plea (which is not a confession) evidence has emerged of the extreme torture he faced and the legality of some of his guilty pleas has been challenged, undermining the deal made - the appeals court has since ruled some of the charges illegal. The hearing was held to allow Khan to withdraw his guilty plea of providing material support for terrorism which is not an offence. Further challenges may be brought against his case and the plea deal made, although this could be more prejudicial to Khan.

Former Guantánamo prisoner and Syrian refugee in Uruguay, Jihad (Abu Wa’el) Dhiab has been on hunger strike since 12 August demanding he is sent to an Arab country or Turkey where he can be reunited with his family whom he has not seen for over 15 years. He was returned to Uruguay from Venezuela at the end of August. On 1st September, he refused to ingest liquids and was twice hospitalised and fell into a coma. He has since agreed to take liquids as the Uruguayan authorities look for a country that will accept him and his family. Turkey, where his refugee family is, and two Arab states have refused to take the whole family. Dhiab was promised family reunification by his lawyers and the Uruguayan authorities when he was released but it has never happened in spite of repeat demands.
The LGC has launched a petition and urgent action for him:

Arrested in Madrid in 2014, former Guantánamo prisoner Moroccan national and Spanish resident Lahcen Ikassrien was sentenced to 11 and a half years by a Spanish court for terrorism recruitment to a cell allegedly supporting the Islamic State militant group and falsification of documents.

LGC Activities:
The September Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 1 September. The October demonstration is on 6 October at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch:  

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 which is updated weekly with the latest information and tweets to raise awareness about Guantánamo. Please join us online if you can!

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Noel Hamel from the London Guantánamo Campaign reviews Yvonne Ridley's new book (out September 2016)


YVONNE RIDLEY.  ISBN 978-1-78266-830-5
Yvonne Ridley’s book is an extremely competent and well researched interrogation of its title question. Yet, is there ambiguity in the word “work”?  Does torture have a purpose? Is it for interrogation? Or is it for sadistic satisfaction, for revenge, to intimidate and to spread fear? Even if it "works" for any of the latter, does it actually produce intelligence?
Torture is ancient but it was outlawed after 1945 by ‘civilised societies’ sickened by the Japanese and Nazis. Many states queued up to sign-on but still torture now. Prominent signatory states went ‘underground’ whilst denying they torture. The 9/11 attacks caught the lame rookie president, George Bush, off-balance. To ‘restore’ the image of the presidency, draconian revenge stunts were planned embracing wars and high profile torture. Totally innocent people were seized to appease US electorate expectations of decisive action. 5000 were detained, justified by concocted personalised ‘terrorism’ myths. Under instruction to “soften up” prisoners, armed forces and ‘intelligence’ agents were emboldened to abuse, torture, injure and humiliate victims in every way possible. Lawyers devised inventive justifications for torture, pretending it was legal and legitimate. The UK fawningly colluded and has expensively ‘bought-off’ legal challenges, avoiding scrutiny. But why do it at all? Revenge and propaganda were motivations but is there more?
For years the USA invested millions of dollars in training torturers. Now they were employed for “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” - torture redefined by lawyers. ‘Professional’ torture was overseen by medical professionals to avoid permanent injury but even so boundaries were stretched. Below the radar servicemen and women tortured and abused without restraint. Death and injury were not uncommon. Other torturers worked secretively at ‘black’ sites and in states where torture is routine. Victims were secretly flown round the globe with covert international cooperation. Guantánamo was an artificial extralegal construct where ‘anything goes’.
If the intent was intelligence gathering from victims, since most clearly lacked any useful information, torturing for intelligence was futile. Under torture false admissions are common. ‘Admissions’ about other people come easily compared to anything personally incriminating. The torturers filed third party stories as if they were evidence. Torturers were obsessed with Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts but got nowhere. He was found by basic surveillance. Torture advocates cite the “ticking time bomb” justification; thwarting a devastating attack in the nick of time by extracting, through torture, information to disable a bomb; but that didn’t remotely resemble any US torture scenario.
Ibn Sheikh al-Libi was shunted between sites and gruesomely tortured, particularly in Cairo. He invented stories about a ricin plot in London, Saddam Hussein working with Osama bin Laden and weapons of mass destruction shared with terrorists – justification for the Iraq war – to get some relief. Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were intensively tortured by Bush approved CIA techniques. Both invented far-fetched terror plots, keeping agents busily checking to forestall possible attacks. The announced discovery of the ‘dirty bomb plot’ by Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002 is notorious. According to him CIA interrogation (torture) saved New Yorkers from devastating radiation exposure to be dispersed by an explosive device. Jose Padilla, held three and a half years in solitary confinement without due process, was cleared for lack of credible evidence. That and the London ricin plot were hoaxes.
Advocates of torture claim torture produces vital intelligence but say national security prevents disclosure. Yvonne interviewed victims who all say torture is futile, gratuitous barbarity. Add to that the self-inflicted image damage of barbarity and utter hypocrisy, the licence given to other states, corrupt governments, dictators, tyrants and terrorist groups. Torture by the USA and allies is a recipe for world-wide regression. Thanks a lot George Bush!
Anyone who thinks torture might possibly be a useful tool in warfare and to combat terrorism should read this well researched and considered book.

Friday, September 16, 2016

URGENT ACTION: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner on Hunger Strike in Uruguay Demanding Family Reunion

Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, 45, spent 12 years at Guantánamo without charge or trial. Cleared for release in 2010, he was eventually released to Uruguay as a Syrian refugee with five others in December 2014.

In 2013, Dhiab (also known as Abu Wa’el Dhiab, or Diyab) took part in the mass hunger strike involving the majority of prisoners, and remained on hunger strike until his release. As a result, he was very weak and underweight when released and continues to walk on crutches.
He was beaten, placed in solitary confinement and subject to force feeding by nasal tube at Guantánamo while on hunger strike. He sued the US government to force them to stop force feeding him in a manner the UN has stated is tantamount to torture. A judge has ordered that videos showing the brutal way in which Dhiab was tortured are disclosed; the court case is ongoing and the US government is fighting tooth and nail to prevent their disclosure. In recent weeks it has claimed that such disclosure could aid terrorists; in truth, it would be hugely embarrassing to the US government. 

Adapting to life in Uruguay as refugees and survivors of torture has not been easy for Dhiab and the other former prisoners. As well as isolation, media demonisation, destitution and an inability to speak Spanish, a key issue for Dhiab has been reunification with his family, some of whom remain in war-torn Syria and others who are currently refugees in Turkey.

The Uruguayan government has promised on numerous occasions to bring them to Uruguay. This has not happened and Dhiab would not be able to host them on a meagre stipend he receives and which is due to run out at the end of the year. He has instead demanded he is sent to Turkey or any Middle Eastern country that will accept him and his family.

In June Dhiab briefly disappeared from Uruguay. The media deliberately and wrongly claimed he had travelled to Brazil and was planning to sabotage the Olympic Games in Rio. Instead, he reappeared at the Uruguayan Embassy in Venezuela in July and again demanded to be sent to Turkey to be with his wife and children. Upon leaving the embassy, he was arrested and held incommunicado by the Venezuelan authorities who denied him access to his lawyer, effectively holding him as he was held at Guantánamo. He was returned to Uruguay in late August.

Dhiab  has been on hunger strike since 12th August and has refused liquids since 1st September. He has been hospitalised twice and on 14th September was in a coma for over 9 hours. He is demanding to be sent to Turkey or any other Middle Eastern country which will accept them where he can live peacefully with his wife and children. The Uruguayan authorities are currently trying to find such a country but claim it is proving difficult. 

It is inevitable that the US is also involved; the pressure on Dhiab is clearly a dimension of the US’ efforts to force Dhiab to give up his lawsuit in the US. The right to family life is a human right.

More information:
Jihad Dhiab explains why he is on hunger strike in English, Arabic and Spanish


There are two things you can do to help support Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab:

1) Please sign and share the following petition to the President of Uruguay demanding that his government takes urgent action to reunite the Dhiab family:

2) Send an individualised letter (in English or Spanish) to the President of Uruguay demanding:
- the Uruguay government takes immediate steps to find a safe third country for Dhiab and his family to be resettled together
- the Uruguay government provides him with the resources to make this happen
A draft letter is provided below:

Your Excellency,
I am writing to you concerning Mr Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, a Syrian refugee in your country who was previously held without charge or trial by the United States at Guantánamo Bay for over 12 years. Mr Dhiab has been on hunger strike since August in protest at the fact that almost two years since his release he has not been reunited with his family in spite of repeat promises.
Since family reunification in Uruguay does not appear to be feasible, I urge you to take urgent measures to send Mr Dhiab to a Middle Eastern or Arab country where he can live peacefully together with his family, who are also refugees. Mr Dhiab has been in a coma and has been hospitalised several times. His situation is worsening. I therefore urge to look into and resolve this as a matter of urgency.

Send letters to:
His Excellency Dr Tabare Vazquez
President of the Oriental Republic of  Uruguay
Torre Ejecutiva, Plaza Independencia 710
11.000 Montevideo Uruguay