Following the possible expulsion of two Yemeni prisoners resettled in Ghana in early 2016, after the supreme court deemed that the decision to settle them had been made unconstitutionally, the Ghanaian parliament made an agreement that allows the two men to remain in the country at least until 2018, to complete the two years initially agreed. Although the two men were never charged at Guantánamo and were cleared for release in 2009, upon their arrival in the country, Christian groups protested and took their complaint to the courts. If they were not allowed to remain in Ghana, the two men, one of whom got married in June, would have nowhere to go, being unable to return to Yemen as they are refugees due to the war there, and not being allowed to enter the US.
At the beginning of August, convicted Saudi prisoner Ahmed Al-Darbi gave his deposition in private at the military commission, testifying and giving evidence that could be used in the death-penalty trial of Abd Al-Nashiri, who also currently faces military trial. The deposition was heard by the same judge hearing Al-Nashiri’s case.
In a 2014 plea deal, Al Darbi pleaded guilty to getting supplies and helping Al Qaeda militants in exchange for being able to serve the remainder of his 15-year sentence in his native Saudi Arabia. As part of the deal, he agreed to testify against two other prisoners facing trial, whom he claims to have only ever met once in the 1990s. The purpose of Al Darbi giving his testimony now is so that it can be preserved before it is used in the other trials so that he can be released to Saudi Arabia. He is potentially the only prisoner to be released by the Trump administration, which has thus far agreed to honour the deal made by the Obama administration. This is the first known deposition given at Guantánamo over the past 16 years.
Al-Darbi gave a further deposition, this time publicly, in mid-August in the non-death penalty case of Abd Al Hadi Al Iraqi. In this deposition, which aimed to dispel the chance of his testimony being rejected later due to the torture he suffered, he gave details of the various forms of physical, sexual and psychological torture he suffered; describing sexual abuse involving torture interrogator Damian Corsetti, Al Darbi stated, ““He hit me, threw me against the wall, threw garbage on me and pulled me to the floor,” captive Ahmed al Darbi testified. “He was kneeling on my chest, pushing my chest with his knees. After that he exposed ‘little Corsetti’ and put it in my face. You happy?” Al Darbi was tortured at both Bagram and Guantánamo. He provided his testimony which also used video evidence and was asked to confirm the identity of Al Iraqi who claims to have a name other than that given to him by the court.
A further hearing is due in September on Al Darbi’s return to Saudi Arabia.
Pre-trial hearings resumed at the Guantánamo military tribunal this month in the case of five men accused of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York. The hearings were previously suspended indefinitely after the judge said he refused to travel to Guantánamo with other people, including the media, lawyers and family members, attending the hearings. During the hearings, the judge rejected a motion filed in July by the prosecution to start the trial in the case by 2019. The defence also asked the judge to fire the prosecution over the destruction of a CIA prison and the failure to provide full records concerning it, claiming that the site was decommissioned without the knowledge of the defendants’ lawyers, in breach of the rules.
Lawyers for Canadian former prisoner Omar Khadr, who got married recently, were back in court this month. In the first case, proceedings have been moved forward to September in a bid to further relax his bail conditions, which include being able to have unfettered access to his sister Zainab Khadr, who lives outside Canada. Khadr is about to start studying for a 4-year degree in nursing at Red Deer College in Alberta and wants to have the remaining conditions relaxed.
In addition, the wife of the US soldier Omar Khadr is alleged to have killed in Afghanistan in 2002 is seeking to have a claim for damages of $132.1 million enforced against him in Canada. Lawyers for Khadr refused to engage and thus contest the original case brought in Utah which was then won by Tabetha Speer and another soldier Khadr is alleged to have injured by default. Lawyers for Khadr in Canada have asked for the case to be dismissed as the claim is based on false information, including torture evidence used in Khadr’s military tribunal.
Syrian refugee and former Guantánamo prisoner Jihad Dhiab attempted again to leave Uruguay and join his refugee family in Turkey. He travelled to Morocco on a false passport from where he was deported back to Uruguay. Later in August, the Uruguayan media claimed he was trying to enter Brazil via the border, however a government spokesman clarified that he had moved to another town from the capital where it was cheaper to live and to find work. Almost three years after his release, Dhiab is not free with close intrusive scrutiny of his life by the authorities and the media.
With the judge in the case of two psychologists who worked as contractors for the CIA designing and implementing the extraordinary rendition torture programme ruling in late September the case could go ahead, thereby rejecting their arguments against it, a trial date was set for early September. However, on 17 August, the two defendants reached an out-of-court settlement, the terms of which remain confidential, with the three victims and agreed to pay them $8 million. Under the terms of a joint statement, the two psychologists disclaimed liability for what happened to the victims, including the death of Afghan Gul Rahman through torture: “Drs. Mitchell and Jessen assert that the abuses of Mr. Salim and Mr. Ben Soud occurred without their knowledge or consent and that they were not responsible for those actions.” While the case itself, brought off the back of the 2014 Senate report into CIA torture, is historic in that it was allowed to proceed and is the first time permission was given to sue the CIA for torture claims, the outcome of this case is unclear. No liability was claimed, even if the payment suggests otherwise, and it is not clear how it will affect the ability of other victims to bring future claims. The fact that the defendants are remorseless is evidenced by the fact that one of them, James Mitchell, is engaged in a book tour promoting his book on “enhanced interrogation” (torture) techniques and thus continuing to make money out of the inhumane suffering of others. The question of impunity has yet to be settled.
The court case, however, was delaying testimony on torture techniques by the two defendants and two other CIA operatives involved in torturing prisoners in the case of Abd Al-Nashiri, thereby holding up the pre-trial hearings. No new date has been set for them to testify.
The August Shut Guantánamo! monthly demonstration was on 3 August. Our next monthly demonstration is on Thursday 7 September at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, W1A, and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch: https://www.facebook.com/events/1620485967983286/