Thursday, April 27, 2017

LGC Newsletter – April 2017

Guantánamo Bay:
On 31 March, a federal appeals court ruled against the disclosure of videos showing the painful methods used to force feed hunger-striking prisoners as the judge claimed they are classified and this could harm national security and “endanger troops and fuel global hostilities against the United States.” A federal district judge had previously ruled to disclose the videos, which show former Syrian prisoner Jihad Diyab been violently removed from his cell, beaten and force fed during the 2013 hunger strike. He was released from Guantánamo in 2014. As a result of the hunger strike and the abuses he faced at Guantánamo he remains unable to walk without the use of crutches. The US military no longer reports on who is on hunger strike or what action is taken against hunger strikers but a few of the remaining 41 prisoners are reported to still be on hunger strike permanently or from time to time.
On 7 April, the military judge in the case against five men accused of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York dropped two minor charges against them. The men, who face the death penalty on more serious charges, had the charges of destruction of property and attacking civilian objects dropped on the basis that too much time has passed since the incident for these offences to be tried by law. Prosecutors argued that this rule does not apply to military tribunals. The judge disagrees but prosecution lawyers have filed a petition to have the dropped charges reinstated.
On 11 April, a group of military lawyers working at the Guantánamo Bay military commissions brought a lawsuit against the US Department of Defense claiming that they have been forced to work and live for a number of years in an area with a high level of known carcinogens. They claim that the authorities did not follow up on reports of health hazards.
The complaint cites the Navy’s “unreasonable delay” in assessing known environmental hazards such as mercury and formaldehyde, and its “arbitrary and capricious determination that . . . personnel must live and work in contaminated areas of Camp Justice before a proper investigation and appropriate remediation are completed.”
A number of people working there are known to have cancer and the cancer risk is related to at least 7 deaths of military and civilian staff.

A new Argentine Spanish-language documentary "Life After Guantanamo" ("La vida después de Guantánamo") looks at the life of Syrian refugee Jihad Diyab since he left Guantánamo for Uruguay in 2014. He has lost 13 members of his family in the war in Syria, and most of his family are currently refugees in Turkey. He could not return to Syria when he was cleared for release in 2010 because of the threat of torture (his wife was "disappeared" and imprisoned instead). Other prisoners sent to third countries also talk about the difficulties they have faced away from their families, in strange countries where they cannot speak the language, and cannot work due to language, trauma and the stigma of Guantánamo. They talk about the difficulties they face in their new surroundings and how they cannot escape Guantánamo as well as the false promises made by their lawyers/representatives of what they could expect once released. Diyab says the former prisoners cannot expect to live a normal life.
The documentary (in Spanish) can be watched at the end of this link:

The difficulties of life after Guantánamo continue elsewhere for Younes Chekkouri, released to Morocco in 2014 and facing terrorism charges there. A court hearing has been set back again and it is now unclear when his case will be heard. 
In Canada, while Justin Trudeau’s government has many admirers for its work on multiculturalism and refugees, where Omar Khadr is concerned, very little has happened. Not much has changed for him under Trudeau’s government. A copy of his Canadian criminal record obtained by the Canadian press claims that Khadr was convicted by a Guantánamo youth court, even though no such thing exists, and fails to recognize that the Guantánamo military tribunals are not recognized as legitimate courts anywhere else. His lawyers have expressed surprise at the document.

Pre-trial hearings continued at Guantánamo in the case of Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, whose lawyers now claim is called Nashwan al Tamir and is a victim of mistaken identity and that he is not and was never an Al Qaeda leader and did not command attacks on US military personnel and installations in Afghanistan.
In order to prove otherwise the prosecution is seeking to have another prisoner, Saudi Ahmed Al-Darbi, who was convicted in 2014 and is awaiting sentencing, provide testimony in this case and inform the court that the two had met 20 years ago on one occasion in 1997. Al-Darbi, who pleaded guilty in a plea bargain in 2014 that would allow him to serve his sentence in Saudi Arabia, deferred his sentencing so that he can testify against Abd Al-Nashiri. A sentencing hearing in Al-Darbi’s case set for May was cancelled due to a scheduling conflict. As Al-Nashiri’s case is unlikely to start for at least another year, and no schedule has been put forward for al Iraqi’s case, Al-Darbi is likely to give a video testimony in both cases. Discussion at the hearing looked at when that might take place and also whether Al-Darbi’s confession can be relied upon as he has said that he was tortured into making confessions.
During the pre-trial hearing al Iraqi’s lawyers also asked whether their client would be released if found innocent or given a short sentence.
Extraordinary rendition:
The US Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for full disclosure to be made of the 2014 US Senate CIA Torture Report. An executive redacted summary has been made public but the ACLU sued for the full 6000-page report to be made public through a freedom of information request.

LGC Activities:
The LGC’s April Shut Guantánamo! demo was held on 6 April. The May demonstration is on 4 May at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park:
A video of Val Brown from the LGC speaking to journalist Parveen Ali at the demo