Tuesday, June 01, 2021

LGC Newsletter – May 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

Pakistani prisoner, Majid Khan, who remains at Guantánamo years after being convicted under a secret plea deal based on torture evidence, continues to await his final sentence. Ahead of his latest scheduled sentencing hearing, his defence team and the military commission convening authority have reached an agreement to prevent CIA officers from testifying about his torture during the proceeding, which his defence sought to help mitigate his sentence. In return for protecting and hiding the CIA’s crimes against humanity, “The jury will be instructed to impose a sentence of 25 to 40 years; but under the new agreement the judge will reduce it to 11 to 14 years (including time served). The military judge, Army Colonel Douglas K. Watkins, already lopped off an additional year because of prosecutorial misconduct. The result is that Mr. Khan could be released as early as next year, depending on the extent of his cooperation.” Although this is a positive outcome for Khan, the agreement means that a landmark court decision allowing evidence of his torture to be used in his defence now has to be set aside: “Apparently, the government thinks it is of the utmost importance not just to bury evidence of CIA torture, but to ensure a decision that could have allowed other detainees to expose their abuse is erased from the books.”

At the same time, in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the military judge in his case allowed prosecutors “to introduce a document containing statements that the defense said were “obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” (CIDT). Judge Acosta’s decision found that the law barring such statements applies only to evidence at trial, not to their use in interlocutory matters.”

More worryingly over the past month, the trial chamber at the International Criminal Court in The Hague has admitted statements as evidence the accused made while being allegedly subject to torture.

https://www.justsecurity.org/76640/torture-evidence-and-the-guantanamo-military-commissions/

 

Three more prisoners have been cleared for release by the periodic review board, bringing the total number of prisoners cleared to 9, almost a quarter of the total prisoner population. One man has been cleared for over a decade. The latest prisoners to be cleared for release are the oldest prisoner, Pakistani Saifullah Paracha, Yemeni Uthman Abd Rahim Uthman and Pakistani Abdul Rabbani. Being cleared for release is not the same as being released, and following two decades of arbitrary detention for each of these men, the US must ensure that they are released under conditions where their safety and human rights are ensured and they are not subject to further US surveillance or further persecution.

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-05-18/us-approves-release-oldest-guantanamo-bay-prisoner

Friday, April 30, 2021

LGC Newsletter – April 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

Under plans devised by the Trump administration, the US military has closed the secretive Camp 7 at Guantánamo Bay that once housed alleged high-value prisoners who were not allowed to have contact with the outside world. The camp was dilapidated and suffered frequent power cuts; rather than renovate it, it was decided that it should close inside. All of the remaining 40 prisoners are now housed in camps 5 and 6.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/guantanamo-bay-closed-detention-camp-b1826720.html#comments-area

 


Iraqi prisoner Nashwan Al-Tamir lost a case before a federal appeals court to have the charges against him dismissed and the judge presiding over his case disqualified due to a conflict of interest. One of the last prisoners to arrive at Guantánamo following capture in 2006 and torture at CIA black sites, he was charged in 2014 with terrorist offences and faces a life sentence. The judge in his case presided over it while seeking employment elsewhere, a conflict of interest, for which he did not recuse himself. Instead the US government has offered to have the court decisions made reheard by another judge which the appeal court agreed with and thus his claims were denied.

https://www.jurist.org/news/2021/04/guantanamo-detainee-loses-bid-to-dismiss-charges-and-disqualify-judge-over-conflicts-of-interest/

 

President Biden has announced that he plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, although not US involvement, by 11 September this year. Whether or not his government is able to achieve this remains to be seen and will have an impact on the prisoners at Guantánamo, given that the ongoing war there is the rationale for keeping Guantánamo open.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/apr/13/biden-withdraw-troops-afghanistan-september-11

Lawyers for some prisoners have used this as a basis for new legal action to challenge their detention https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/21/us/politics/afghanistan-war-guantanamo-prison.html

However, in ongoing similar legal proceedings started under previous presidents, lawyers for the Biden administration, in the case of Ali v Biden, decided to broadly uphold the position of the Trump administration that Guantánamo prisoners should not have full due process rights, and thus the ability to challenge their detention in court meaningfully.

https://www.justsecurity.org/75828/biden-teams-litigation-tactics-on-guantanamo-undercut-biden-policy-to-close-the-prison/

It should also be recalled that in 2014, former President Obama also called for US troops to be removed from Afghanistan, yet seven years on, they remain there and Guantánamo is still open.

 

At least 32 of the remaining 40 Guantánamo prisoners are reported to have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/ap-source-guantanamo-prisoners-now-covid-19-vaccine-77170045

 

The US Supreme Court has decided to hear a petition by Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah to discover the identities of agents who tortured him while in secret CIA detention in Poland as part of an ongoing investigation there. His lawyers also want to question the architects of the CIA’s torture programme, former contractors James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The US government refuses to disclose this information claiming it falls under state secrets. The case will not be heard until October at least.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/26/us-supreme-court-to-hear-palestinian-guantanamo-prisoner-case

His lawyers have also said that they have filed a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention against the US and 6 other states concerning his ongoing detention without charge or trial. His lawyers hope that the complaint will find that the US is obliged to release him, even though the CIA has previously said that he will never be released.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/30/guantanamo-detainee-abu-zubaydah-to-file-complaint-with-un-agency

Abu Zubaydah currently also has a claim against the UK government for disclosure of what it knew about his torture and abuse by the CIA in the UK courts.

 

Extraordinary Rendition

In early April, the Biden administration removed sanctions on staff of the International Criminal Court (ICC) imposed by his predecessor Trump, imposing visa restrictions and freezing their assets in the US. However, the Biden administration disagrees with the court’s against the US and Israel. In a statement upon lifting the sanction, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We continue to disagree strongly with the ICC's actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations. We maintain our longstanding objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel. We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions.”

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/02/icc-sanctions-reversed-biden-478731

The UK government’s controversial Overseas Operations Bill 2021 has received royal assent and will soon become law. However, this only happened after the government dropped clauses that would shield UK military personnel from prosecution against involvement in war crimes involving torture, genocide or crimes against humanity. More recently it has had to back down on a blanket ban on prosecutions for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government argued but failed to prove that it needed to protect military personnel against “vexatious claims”. While many claims have been made, very few come to trial and even fewer result in prosecutions. The law will prevent civil claims being brought after 6 years in the context of foreign wars.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/overseas-operations-bill-uk-government-drops-bid-shield-soldiers-war-crimes-prosecutions

Thursday, April 01, 2021

LGC Newsletter – March 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

Former Guantánamo prisoner Lotfi Benali died in Mauritania on 9 March 2021. A Tunisian national, he was 55 and had been suffering from a long-term illness. He spent more than 13 years at Guantánamo without charge or trial. He was then sent by the Obama administration to Kazakhstan as Tunisia refused his repatriation. However, Kazakhstan refused to allow him to remain there permanently and he later moved to Mauritania which agreed to allow this Guantánamo refugee to live there. He was suffering from multiple physical and mental health problems at the time of his death, some that preceded his capture by the US and some that he acquired during US imprisonment without charge or trial for over a decade.

A 2016 interview with The Guardian after his arrival in Kazakhstan: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/30/worse-than-guantanamo-ex-prisoner-struggles-with-new-life-in-kazakhstan

 


Extraordinary Rendition

Human rights NGO Redress has filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal in relation to “evidence to suggest that UK intelligence agencies encouraged, facilitated, or conspired with US authorities in the torture and ill-treatment” of Guantánamo prisoner Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, a Saudi national who was kidnapped and tortured in secret CIA detention for over three years before arriving at Guantánamo Bay, where he is one of five defendants in the capital case related to the September 2001 attacks in New York City. The complaint has been made against the potential involvement of various government agencies, “namely the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the Defence Intelligence, Ministry of Defence (MoD)”. The NGO is seeking documents and information about their involvement and complicity in his torture. Hawsawi has already successfully brought a case against Lithuania at the European Court of Human Rights concerning its involvement in his torture when he was illegally detained there.

https://redress.org/news/mustafa-al-hawsawi-18-years-on-from-his-detention-by-us-forces-legal-challenge-seeks-to-determine-the-extent-of-uk-involvement-in-his-torture/

 

 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

LGC Newsletter – February 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

Former Sudanese prisoner, Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris, who arrived at Guantánamo on the day it was opened on 11 January 2002, has died aged 60 in Sudan. Suspected of having worked as a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden, he was never charged at Guantánamo and was released in 2013. A lawyer has attributed his death “to medical complications he had from Guantánamo”. The exact cause of death is unknown but he is known to have been in ill-health and another former Sudanese prisoner has said that he was tortured at Guantánamo. His health deteriorated at Guantánamo and he suffered mental health problems while there and after his release.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/11/us/ibrahim-idris-dead.html

 
US president Joe Biden has launched a formal review into the current situation at Guantánamo and has said that he intends to close the facility, where 40 prisoners remain, before the end of his term. An executive action to this end may be signed in the coming weeks or months, although it is not a priority of the current administration and there are no details of what the current US government plans to do.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-biden-guantanamo-exclusive-idUSKBN2AC1Q4

In this response to this, a group of UN human rights experts have called on the US government to “address ongoing violations being committed against the 40 or so inmates still incarcerated there” and to investigate allegations of torture and other human rights abuses.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/02/1085492

Sunday, January 31, 2021

LGC Newsletter – January 2021

 Guantánamo Bay

Prior to the inauguration of new US president Joe Biden, the Pentagon took action to prevent an order being enforced that was made by a federal judge in March last year to allow Saudi prisoner Mohammed Al-Qahtani to have an independent medical examination. The purpose of the examination is to determine his mental health, which was poor when he was captured and arrived at Guantánamo, in order to determine whether it would be better for him to return to Saudi Arabia for psychiatric care. Due to the torture Al-Qahtani suffered in US detention, worsening his schizophrenia and mental health problems, charges against him were dropped and he remains held without charge or trial for over a decade. No independent medical examination has ever taken place at Guantánamo. However, Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, before leaving office, “signed a two-page memorandum on Monday excluding detainees at Guantánamo from the regulation that was the basis of the court order”. As a result the Justice Department asked for the judge’s order to be thrown out. Joe Biden could reverse this decision. He has yet to take any action over Guantánamo. There are concerns that if Al-Qahtani’s examination goes ahead and he is repatriated, other prisoners may bring similar claims. On the other hand, an independent examination would reveal more about the torture he experienced.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/15/us/politics/guantanamo-prisoner-health-torture.html


Signalling that there is likely to be little change at Guantánamo under Biden, on 21 January, the Pentagon “announced plans to move ahead with a military trial for three men held at Guantánamo Bay who are suspected of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings”. The trio, from Indonesia and two from Malaysia, are having charges brought against them in this case for third time and a first hearing has been set for 22 February. The Indonesian faces 8 charges and the Malaysians 9 in total. All three were victims of extraordinary rendition and were kidnapped in 2003 and tortured at various CIA secret prisons around the world before arriving at Guantánamo Bay in 2006. Their countries have resisted their repatriation and Obama, in his attempts to empty the detention centre, tried to have the Indonesian, known as Hambali, released for trial to Malaysia where he would face the death penalty. The current charges, however, are non-capital and include conspiracy, murder and terrorism.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/22/bali-bombings-us-to-move-ahead-with-trial-of-suspects-held-in-guantanamo


Extraordinary Rendition

Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah is suing the British government (Foreign Office, Home Office and Attorney General) over claims that MI6 were involved in his torture interrogations that emerged in a parliamentary report by the Intelligence and Security Committee in 2019, which stated that in spite of being aware of his torture and illegal detention, the intelligence services kept sending questions to be put to him by their US counterparts up until 2006 at least. Following the 2019 report, a police investigation was launched as it provided sufficient evidence.

Abu Zubaydah was kidnapped in 2002 and tortured at various secret CIA prisons around the world before arriving at Guantánamo in 2006, where very few people have seen him or had contact with him. His family believed he was dead for many years. His case was used to capture and implicate dozens of other foreign nationals in Pakistan but the US stated that it knew he was innocent by at least 2006. Nonetheless he has remained at Guantánamo since without charge or trial. He has successfully sued Poland and Lithuania for their roles in his ordeal.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9168851/Guantanamo-Bay-prisoner-sues-British-government-claiming-MI6-complicit-torture.html

 

LGC Activities:

The London Guantánamo Campaign held an online day of protest on Monday 11 January 2021 to mark the nineteenth anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Thank you to everyone who took part and contributed to our Twitter storm.

 

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Nineteen years of Guantánamo!

Prisoners held at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp have been under lockdown for almost two decades! Out of a total of 780 men and boys known to have been held there, 40 remain, most of whom have never been charged or tried. They do not know why they are held there or the threat they are alleged to pose. All have been subjected to degrading treatment and/or torture and arbitrary detention.

Some of the men still held at Guantánamo

As a new president is due to enter the White House later this month, we call on you to join us on Monday 11 January to mark this anniversary with an online social media protest. Due to current tier 4 restrictions in London, this event will be held entirely online but you can join in wherever you are in the world.

Please take a photo/make a video/make a banner/share your comment with us via Facebook on our page https://www.facebook.com/London-Guantánamo-Campaign-114010671973111/

or Twitter @shutguantanamo with your message to Joe Biden to close Guantánamo when he takes office. If you do not use Facebook or Twitter, please email us your message and pictures: london.gtmo[at]gmail.com and we will share them for you. The London Guantánamo Campaign is not on Instagram but please feel free to get the conversation going there as well with your friends. Please use the hashtag #GitmoIs19

If you are on Twitter, please join us for a Twitter storm on 11 January at 8-9pm GMT (3-4pm EST). Suggested tweets will be available on our website shortly before on the day.

Suggested tweets for the #GitmoIs19 Twitter storm. Feel free to translate and/or add your own: 

- 780 men and boys, all of them Muslim, have been imprisoned over time at Guantánamo since January 2002. #GitmoIs19

 

- 22 or more Guantánamo prisoners were children when they arrived there. #GitmoIs19

 

- Trump has pardoned convicted murderers serving in the US military or working for private military contractors involved in massacres in Iraq and Afghanistan but has only released one Guantánamo prisoner. #GitmoIs19

 

- 86 percent of Guantánamo prisoners were sold to the United States during a time when the U.S. military was offering large bounties for capture; commonly, $5,000 offered per man. #GitmoIs19

 

- 740 men have been transferred from Guantánamo (including 9 deaths). #GitmoIs19

 

- 40 men remain detained at #Guantánamo: 28 are not charged with any crime or offense. Six of them have been cleared for release but remain imprisoned. #GitmoIs19

 

- More men (9) have died at Guantánamo than have been convicted (8) by the military commissions. #GitmoIs19

 

- 0 senior government officials have been held accountable for the wrongful detention and torture at Guantánamo. #GitmoIs19

 

- 19 years on - #Guantánamo is still not closed & 40 prisoners remain, largely without charge or trial. Will @JoeBiden finally close it? @amnesty new report amn.st/6013Hn2JL #GitmoIs19

 

- As millions of Usians queue for welfare and at foodbanks, remember it costs $13 million to keep each prisoner at #Guantánamo each year. Do you know why they are held there? #GitmoIs19

 

- How many US presidents does it take to close ONE illegal torture and arbitrary detention facility? #GitmoIs19

 

- .@joebiden already has an opportunity to hold the US accountable for the forced disappearances, secret detention and torture of former #Guantanamo prisoners - will he make a difference? http://chrgj.org/2020/12/30/seeking-justice-before-the-inter-american-commission-victims-hand-biden-administration-an-opportunity-to-end-impunity/ #extraordinaryrendition #GitmoIs19 @humanrightsnyu

 

- This is how they beat, rape, starve, humiliate a confession out of you at #Guantanamo https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/6/22/the-torture-of-majid-khan #MajidKhan #GitmoIs19

 

- Close #Guantanamo, end the US’ imperial wars and end the war on terror - #GitmoIs19

 

- The US knew #AbuZubaydah - CIA torture poster boy - was innocent by 2006 but they still tortured him horrifically and he remains at #Guantanamo today without charge or trial. Few people are allowed to see him... https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/nov/21/abu-zubaydah-tortures-poster-child/ #GitmoIs19

 

- Guantánamo opened in its current war on terror incarnation on 11 January 2002. Now in its twentieth year, it’s still a thing #GitmoIs19

 

- Trump pardons #warcriminal murderers but allows 40 men to remain at #Guantánamo for almost 20 years, most without charge or trial https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/dec/27/eddie-gallagher-trump-navy-seal-iraq https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/23/trump-pardons-blackwater-contractors-jailed-for-massacre-of-iraq-civilians #GitmoIs19

 

- Vaccines for Covid19 developed in under a year. Justice at #Guantánamo not even being contemplated after two decades #GitmoIs19

 

- Dear @JoeBiden Obama said he wanted to close #Guantanamo too and today we are marking 19 years of Guantanamo where 40 prisoners remain. What will you do to make a difference or is this just talk? #GitmoIs19

 

- #Guantanamo "justice": the kangaroo court where torturers get to justify #CrimesAgainstHumanity & #WarCrimes https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/20/guantanamo-psychologists-cia-torture-program-testify #GitmoIs19

 

- Will @joebiden be the fourth US president to fail to close Guantanamo or one who will make a difference? https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/dec/13/guantanamos-last-inmates-detect-a-glimmer-of-hope-after-19-years-inside #GitmoIs19

 

- US can't protect its citizens against Covid because billions of $$$ in funds diverted to hold 40 men largely without charge or trial at #Guantanamo for almost 2 decades. Such are its priorities #GitmoIs19

 

- Dozens of states around the world were complicit in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme and the detention of 100s of Muslim men and boys at #Guantanamo Bay #GitmoIs19 https://www.justiceinitiative.org/publications/globalizing-torture-cia-secret-detention-and-extraordinary-rendition

 

- Who are the 40 men still at #Guantanamo? Most are held without charge or trial almost two decades on #GitmoIs19 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oxz3qdeUyOE&feature=youtu.be


- States around the world are silent today on the continuing operation of #Guantanamo Bay as a torture and arbitrary detention camp run by the US. That silence is bought by their complicity #GitmoIs19


#GitmoIs19 - No more anniversaries! Guantá-no-more!