Tuesday, January 31, 2017

LGC Newsletter – January 2017

Guantánamo Bay:
There are currently 41 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. On 5 January, the Obama administration sent four Yemeni prisoners to Saudi Arabia. The four men are Mohammed Rajab Sadiq Abu Ghanem, Salem Ahmed Hadi bin Kanad, Abdullah Yehya Yousef al-Shibli and Mohammed Bawazir. Bawazir, who protested his detention with a lengthy hunger strike, had in January 2016 refused to be resettled in Europe, preferring to be sent to an Arabic-speaking country. He and Shibli were cleared for release in 2010 and the other two were cleared by the periodic review board for release last year. The men have families in Saudi Arabia with whom they were reunited.
Ten prisoners were released to Oman on a temporary basis on 15 January.
One day before leaving office, the Obama administration transferred a Saudi prisoner back to Saudi Arabia and three other prisoners – a Yemeni, an Afghan and a Russian – to the UAE.
Five prisoners who have been cleared for release by the Obama administration remain at Guantánamo. There were 242 prisoners at the facility in 2009 when Obama became president.
On 18 January, Sufyian Barhoumi, an Algerian prisoner who had been cleared for release, lost an emergency court petition demanding he is released before Trump becomes president and his chance to be released is lost. Although cleared by the board, the Department of Defense refused to allow his release. Donald Trump’s tweet from early January about not releasing any further prisoners was used as evidence in the case. The case was rejected as the judge decided not to overrule the power of the Department of Defense to continue his detention.

In spite of tweets by Donald Trump before he became president that he will not release any more prisoners and will instead load the facility up with “some bad dudes” as well as an alleged draft executive order published in the New York Times claiming that the Trump administration will resume waterboarding and other torture methods used by the CIA under the extraordinary rendition programme, thus far under Trump Guantánamo has continued to function exactly as it did under Obama. Guantánamo is not a priority for the current administration and there is no timetable for any possible orders related to its future. Instead, on Wednesday 25 January, the first military commission hearing of 2017 and under the Trump era commenced in the case of 5 men accused of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York. The hearing was however suspended after a few hours as one of the death penalty defence lawyers, Cheryl T. Bormann, had broken her arm and was unable to attend and the judge said the pre-trial hearing could not continue without her. Ironically, the defendant she represents has been trying to fire her for over a year and does not communicate with his defence team whom he would like replaced. The hearing has now been set back to March.
In addition, the first periodic review hearing of 2017 is scheduled for 9 February, whereby prisoners can be cleared for release. The first prisoner to come before the board under Trump is Omar Muhammad Ali al-Rammah.

On 11 January, the fifteenth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay, former Belgian prisoner Moussa Zemmouri who was released in 2005 brought a complaint against Belgium at the UN Committee on Torture in Geneva for the lack of assistance he was given by his state during the three years he was imprisoned at Guantánamo. He was assisted by his lawyers and a German NGO. The claim relates to the fact that Belgium knew of the ill-treatment and torture he was subjected to but did not prevent it. A complaint he brought in Belgium against the authorities in 2010 is ongoing and he has been subject to harassment by the authorities to deter him.

Former Moroccan prisoner Younis Chekkouri, who was released to Morocco in September 2015 where he continued to be held until February 2016, has been referred to the district court as the criminal court has ruled that it cannot hear the case related to terrorism charges.

Extraordinary rendition:
In a series of linked judgments related to the UK authorities’ involvement in extraordinary rendition and torture overseas, the UK Supreme Court ruled on 17 January that Libyan rendition victims Abdel Hakim Belhadj and his wife Fatima Bouchar, who were kidnapped and rendered to torture in Libya from Southeast Asia with the help of the UK and US authorities in 2004, can sue former foreign secretary Jack Straw and MI6 chief Sir Mark Allen. However, in other claims brought by victims of rendition in Iraq and Afghanistan the court ruled in favour of the government and in a case brought by a former Iraqi prisoner it ruled that the UK military could capture and detain “enemy combatants”. This decision may affect hundreds of claims currently pending against the Ministry of Defence for prisoner abuse in Iraq.
Fifty years after the UK government expelled the residents of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, and then leased the largest island Diego Garcia to the US military to use as a strategic military base, which was once used as a torture prison, on 1 January the British and US authorities signed a new 20-year lease for the military base.

LGC Activities:
The LGC marked the 15th anniversary of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp opening on 11 January 2002 with a sad clown protest outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar. Around 40 people joined the action which saw activists dressed as clowns hold up a banner stating “15 years of Guantánamo is no laughing manner!” The event attracted the attention of passers-by who saw the colourful outfits and then realised the purpose of the protest. http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/15-years-of-guantanamo-how-many-us.html

The LGC joined the protest outside the US Embassy to mark the inauguration of President Trump. Although several hundred people joined this protest organised by Stand Up to Racism, in 2009 the LGC protested alone outside the US Embassy against the ongoing injustice of Guantanamo and CIA torture, which have not changed over the past 8 years. The LGC protest on 20 January was noted by the BBC report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/world-us-canada-38682565A man in an orange jump suit and a clown mask has a banner reading "15 years in Guantanamo is no joke".
The LGC also joined the Women’s March on 21 January to remind the world that Guantánamo remains open with 41 prisoners. While the general public has become aware of the discriminatory and racist practices of the US administration since 9/11 in recent days this is exactly what we have been protesting against – and in solidarity with other discriminated minorities – for over almost 11 years. 
 Our first Shut Guantánamo! Demo of 2017 and under Donald Trump’s presidency also marks the tenth anniversary of our regular protests. We are outside the US Embassy at 12-1pm and outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, at 1.15-2.15pm on https://www.facebook.com/events/706025256245152/

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