Thursday, September 28, 2017

LGC Newsletter – September 2017

Guantánamo Bay
On 7 September, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), at its 164th session in Mexico City, heard the merits in a case brought by former Algerian Guantánamo prisoner Djamel Ameziane against the United States (Ameziane v United States) for the abuse and arbitrary detention he suffered during his 12 years at Guantánamo Bay, where he was never charged or tried. He was then returned to Algeria by the Obama administration against his will where he faced incommunicado detention and trial. At the time, he had been seeking asylum elsewhere should he be released from Guantánamo, and had reasonable grounds to fear persecution on his return to a country he had fled in the 1990s on the basis of his Berber ethnic minority status. The case was brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL); this was a landmark hearing as it is the first time a court with international jurisdiction in the Americas has heard such a merits case. A ruling in favour of Ameziane by the court would put considerable pressure on the US government and would add to the international law pressure to close Guantánamo.
Lawyers at the hearing urged the IACHR to declare that the US government violated his human rights and order reparations, including access to adequate medical care, financial assistance for basic needs, return of his personal property, and a public apology for what was done to him. Although Djamel Ameziane was unable to attend the hearing, he submitted a statement to the hearing setting out his case and his feelings towards his ordeal at Guantánamo Bay and the difficulties he has faced in re-establishing his life since his release:

 In early September, the CCR also made an emergency request to the courts for an independent medical evaluation of one of its remaining clients at Guantánamo, 43-year old Yemeni Sharqawi Al-Hajj, who is currently on hunger strike in protest at his ongoing detention. Al-Hajj suffers from a number of illnesses that doctors “believe are symptoms of severe liver disease or another potentially life-threatening underlying illness, or associated with his torture in secret prisons for two years before Guantánamo” and which his lawyers believe are being worsened by his hunger strike.

Nashwan al Tamir, known to the US military as Abdul Hadi Al Iraqi, had surgery on his spine twice this month. Needing surgery since January this year, neurosurgeons arrived at Guantánamo ahead of Hurricane Irma to operate on his back. Awaiting trial on non-capital charges, he uses a wheelchair and has had back problems for more than a decade, which his lawyers attribute to his treatment in US military detention. However, the US military claims he has been refusing treatment. Surgeons had to be rushed in urgently after he complained that he lost feeling in his lower body. His lawyer claims he has long been at risk of paralysis and that the military is withholding information about his condition from them.
On 21 September, they filed a petition to the courts to ask a federal judge to intervene in his medical care, claiming that he only received the two operations after they consulted external doctors on his condition. The doctors concluded that “he was at risk of paralysis from a condition damaging his spine and nervous system.”
They are asking the judge to appoint and fund an independent medical expert to supervise his care and to “order the prison to release his full medical records to outside experts as well as to his medical team.” The request is extraordinary and much secrecy surrounds medical practices at Guantánamo. In their petition, his lawyers wrote, “The deliberate indifference and disregard of the United States toward petitioner’s health and safety have put him at immediate risk of permanent paralysis or worse, and constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”
His lawyers have been forbidden from visiting him while he recovers and his October pre-trial hearing has been cancelled. His next hearing is scheduled for mid-December.

At a key national security conference this month, Brigadier General John G. Baker, the Chief Defense Counsel of the Military Commissions Defense Organization gave a speech at George Washington University Law School in which he spoke critically of the military commission system at Guantánamo stating that defence lawyers defend “the rule of law from a military commission apparatus that is flawed in both design and execution” and described the commissions as “a failed experiment”.

Omar Khadr was back in court in Edmonton, Canada, on 15 September to ask to have his remaining bail conditions loosened further, to include unfettered access to his sister Zaynab Khadr, who lives abroad. The judge, however, said that his sister is still an Al Qaeda supporter and maintained the restrictions that Khadr and his sister communicate only in English and in the presence of a court-appointed supervisor. The judge also refused to relax his travel restrictions, meaning he still has to ask permission to travel outside the province of Alberta within Canada. He has, however, had restrictions on his internet usage lifted.

Extraordinary rendition
On 22 September, a federal court ruled that three Iraqi citizens tortured and held prisoner at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by US contractor CACI could prosecute the company and hold it responsible for their treatment. The case was originally brought in 2008 and the ruling will allow the men to hold the company directly responsible.
According to the CCR, which is bringing the case on behalf of the men, “U.S. military investigators long ago concluded that CACI interrogators conspired with U.S. soldiers, who were later court martialed, to “soften up” detainees for interrogations; according to statements by co-conspirators. A U.S. Army general referred to the treatment as “sadistic, blatant, and wanton” criminal abuses. Al Ejaili, Al-Suba’e, and Al Shimari [the complainants] were subjected to electric shocks, sexual assaults, sensory deprivation, mock executions, stress positions, broken bones, deprived of oxygen, food and water, stripped and kept naked, forced to witness the rape of a female prisoner, as well as experienced other dehumanizing acts of torture and threats to themselves and their families.”
LGC Activities:
The September Shut Guantánamo! monthly demonstration was on 7 September. Our next monthly demonstration is on Thursday 5 October. It is a special demonstration to mark 16 years of the war in Afghanistan, which gave rise to detention at Guantánamo and hosted a number of secret prisons run by the CIA. We will stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and particularly the large number of refugees being repatriated from across Europe and elsewhere to Afghanistan even though the conflict is escalating as President Trump sends more troops there. This demonstration will be outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, W1A, ONLY from 12-2pm:

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