Tuesday, January 02, 2018

LGC Newsletter – December 2017

Guantánamo Bay
The resettlement in third countries of Guantánamo prisoners cleared for release under Barack Obama was often linked to cash, trade and diplomatic deals between the US and the host country. The resettlement of four Chinese Uighur refugees in Bermuda in 2009, where they and their families are practically hostages as they cannot leave the island even for urgent medical treatment, is one of the deals concerning which there has been much speculation and obscurity. In late 2017, a $20,000 per month deal was brokered by the government of Bermuda and a lobbying firm run by a former senior political strategist for Barack Obama who was involved in his election campaign as well as being present when the men arrived in Bermuda. Another company run by the same man, Art Collins, is reported to have come up with the idea of resettling the men in Bermuda. The island, a British Overseas Territory, is also a tax haven and the services to be provided under the contract relate to taxation and compliance.  

In November, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, the chief defence counsel for military commissions, spent two days in confinement at Guantánamo after being found guilty of contempt at the war court in the case of Abd Al-Nashiri for disobeying orders when he refused to testify before the judge and withdraw a decision he made to allow some of the civilian defence lawyers in the case to quit. He was sentenced to 28 days but did not serve the full sentence or pay the $1000 fine as the sentence was suspended. In early December, his lawyers filed a lawsuit to have the conviction overturned as the conviction – the only one at Guantánamo under Trump – could affect his career negatively. He is represented by volunteer lawyers who also applied to the federal courts to have him released when he was confined at Guantánamo.

Pre-trial hearing continued in the case of 5 men accused of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York. On 6 December, a retired FBI agent, who claims that she questioned him without the use of torture – although she did not say whether she had used torture-based evidence to formulate the questions she asked – said that Saudi Mustafa Al-Hawsawi admitted to helping with the flights and finances of seven of the 19 men who hijacked the planes used in the attack during a 2007 interrogation. This interrogation would have taken place shortly after he arrived at Guantánamo following years of severe torture at various secret CIA jails all over the world. Hawsawi has outstanding cases for torture complicity by European states at the European Court of Human Rights.
As part of the hearing, his lawyers are challenging the idea that the war on terror started before 9/11 and that if it started subsequently, he should be tried before a civil court and not a military tribunal as his alleged involvement predates the attacks themselves, given that he is accused of being a businessman who financed them and other Al Qaeda activities.
The agent Abigail Perkins had collected documents from the United Arab Emirates prior to his kidnap and rendition, such as bank documents and phone bills. He did not attend the hearing himself as he suffers from back and rectal pain from the years of physical and sexual torture he suffered at the hands of the CIA, which make it difficult for him to sit for too long.

The war court prosecutor issued new charges against three prisoners – Indonesian Riduan bin Isomuddin, known as Hambali, and two Malaysians Bashir Lap and Mohamed Farik Bin Amin, considered his aides, accused of involvement in attacks on western targets in Indonesia. The two Malaysians were added as co-conspirators for the first time. They are accused of “murder, terrorism, attacking civilians and civilian objects, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property as a war crime”. Charges were initially brought against Hambali in June 2017. The three arrived in Guantánamo in 2006 after years in secret CIA prisoners and were not charged for over a decade.
However, on 20 December, the case was returned without approval by the Pentagon due to a “procedural issue”.

On 13 December, Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, slammed the US for ongoing torture at Guantánamo and its failure to bring those responsible for these practices to account. He said that the US is acting in violation of the Convention Against Torture and criticised the admissibility of evidence obtained from torture before the military tribunal.

Following issues related to client-lawyer privilege, including eavesdropping on conversations and other issues that may have led to the resignation of Abd Al-Nashiri’s legal team, proposals have been put forward for a private attorney-client meeting place at Guantánamo, as requested by a Pentagon official. However, the specifications “for the new site envision six meeting rooms equipped with security cameras linked to a control room; a place for captives to make or receive telephone calls as well as “control and listening rooms.”” It is also expected to be wheelchair accessible. Lawyers for defendants held at Guantánamo are sceptical that they can trust that they will be allowed to have confidential conversations with their clients at Guantánamo.

Extraordinary rendition
An American citizen who has been held without access to a lawyer since handing himself over to the US military in Iraq in September is reported to have asked for a lawyer. The man has been seen by the Red Cross but the US has been wary about releasing any information about him. By failing to give him access to a lawyer to challenge the grounds of his detention – which remain unknown – the Trump administration has breached the US constitution.
The man is being held as an “enemy combatant” and allegedly fought with ISIS. It later emerged that the man is also a Saudi citizen. The ACLU has learned that the man has been interrogated by the FBI and others during his detention.
The ACLU has sued the US government to be able to provide the man with legal counsel. The man has not been charged but on Christmas Eve, a federal judge ruled that the US military must provide the man with a lawyer, and to grant the ACLU “"immediate and unmonitored access to the detainee" so that it can determine whether he wants the ACLU to represent him. The judge also ordered the Defense Department not to transfer the detainee until the ACLU tells the court of the detainee's wishes.”.

LGC Activities:
The December Shut Guantánamo! monthly demonstration was on 7 December. In January, there will be two events on 11 January in London to mark 16 years of Guantánamo, a vigil in Trafalgar Square from 12-3pm organised by the Guantánamo Justice Campaign and a candlelight vigil outside the US Embassy at 6-8pm organised by the LGC: https://www.facebook.com/events/133351624119249/ With the US Embassy relocating to Nine Elms in the coming week, after almost 12 years of protest this is likely to be our last major Guantánamo demo at this historic site. Please do join us!

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