Friday, May 29, 2020
Guantánamo BayA US appeals court has rejected a habeas corpus petition from Algerian prisoner Abdul Razak Ali and dismissed his lawyers’ argument that due process rights apply to Guantánamo prisoners. Abdul Razak Ali has been held by the US military since 2002 without charge. The judgment shows that the US is still relying on now debunked myths about the apparent risk posed by fellow prisoner Abu Zubaydah, whom the judgment called a “senior terrorist leader”; Ali had spent 18 days in the same Pakistani guesthouse Abu Zubaydah was caught in. In 2018, Ali was one of eleven prisoners who brought a case against their detention as being unconstitutional. The case is ongoing, however Ali’s claim in this case was dismissed and thus he appealed individually.
Due to coronavirus-related lockdowns at Guantánamo, the scheduled trial of five men accused of involvement in attacks on New York City in 2001 is likely to be delayed further. Currently, lawyers are not able to visit their clients or have telephone contact with them. Furthermore, lawyers working remotely do not have access to all of the security-vetted evidence. Pre-trial hearings scheduled for the coming months have also been put back.
Although no recent cases of coronavirus have been reported at Guantánamo since the initial two among military personnel, and none among the prisoner population, the US military remains secretive about the procedures in place and troop rotations have taken place during the lockdown. A group of senators has thus written to the defence secretary expressing concern “about the potential for a “significant outbreak” of the coronavirus at the Pentagon prison at Guantánamo Bay” and seeking “answers to how the military is safeguarding the 40 prisoners there and the American forces responsible for them.”
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued its final report on human rights violations committed by the US government against former Algerian prisoner Djamel Ameziane. The report found the US responsible for his torture and illegal detention without charge. It “is the first decision ever made by a major regional Human Rights body regarding the human rights violations committed at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and marks a historic victory for Mr. Ameziane and the rights of others detained at Guantanamo Bay to judicial reparations.” Ameziane said: “I was tortured for more than a decade at Guantanamo, and still suffer from the trauma of my horrible experience. The Commission’s decision is a significant step towards reparations for me and for other Muslim men and boys who were unjustly detained and abused in Guantanamo Bay during the dark days of the ‘War on Terror’. I urge the United States to honor the Commission's recommendations, acknowledge the serious harms that we suffered, and close the prison camp. Guantanamo Bay must end. I am especially concerned about my fellow Algerian, Sufyian Barhoumi, who has been cleared for transfer for many years but continues to be held indefinitely. Sufyian, we have not forgotten you, and pray for your safe return home”. The report made recommendations including the payment of reparations.
With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the London Guantánamo Campaign’s monthly Shut Guantánamo! demonstration will be held virtually at 12-2pm on Thursday 4 June. To take part, please email a photo/video of your banner to us at email@example.com before 12pm on 4 June or share your picture/video to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/London-Guantánamo-Campaign-114010671973111/ or via Twitter (or just a message – some possible messages available through the link below) @shutguantanamo between 12 and 2pm on Thursday 4 June. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/250151392977927/
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Veteran death penalty lawyer David Bruck, whose previous clients include Dylann Roof and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, has been appointed to replace James P. Harrington, former defence lawyer for Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni national among the five defendants accused of terrorist attacks in New York in September 2001. Bruck has not met his client or practiced law in a military court before.
At the same time, Lieutenant Colonel Derek A Poteet, who has acted as military defence lawyer for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in the same case since 2011, has left the case after a court approved a notice sent to the court that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed agreed to his departure. He left the case after taking up a post elsewhere. Following his official departure on 30 June, only one of the original defence lawyers from 2012 will remain: Ammar Al-Baluchi’s lawyer Lieutenant Colonel Sterling Thomas.
A petition has been rejected by three of the five defendants in the above case - Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, Walid Bin Attash and Mustafa Al Hawsawi – to have all orders made by a former judge in the case Colonel Keith Parella cancelled due to the “appearance of partiality they claim was created by his earlier work for the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section, his acquaintance with one of the military commission prosecutors, his lack of candor during voir dire, and the possibility he may pursue Justice Department employment after retiring from the military”.
A petition was also rejected by lawyers for the defendants in this case to grant them access to the full 2014 Senate Committee Torture Report.
Due to current social distancing measures in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the London Guantánamo Campaign’s monthly Shut Guantánamo! demonstration will be held virtually at 12-2pm on Thursday 7 May. To take part, please email a photo/video of your banner to us at firstname.lastname@example.org before 12pm on 7 May or share your picture/video to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/London-Guantánamo-Campaign-114010671973111/ or via Twitter (or just a message – some possible messages available through the link below) @shutguantanamo between 12 and 2pm on Thursday 7 May. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/224045972238026/
Monday, March 30, 2020
On 24 March, the US military reported that a Navy sailor based at Guantánamo had contracted the Covid19 virus, the first of the 6000 military personnel stationed there. According to journalist Carol Rosenberg, this does not affect the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay or any personnel at the detention centre, and extensive measures have been taken to protect staff and prisoners, many of whom are at heightened risk after years of torture and abuse at the hands of the US military. Meetings with lawyers must also currently take place via video link or telephone and not in person due to the virus.
A federal judge has ordered the US government to set up a Mixed Medical Commission, an independent medical panel, made up of one US military doctor and two doctors from third countries, to carry out a psychological assessment of Saudi prisoner Mohammed Al-Qahtani to see if he is receiving adequate psychiatric care at the facility. Al-Qahtani has suffered from schizophrenia since his childhood. His lawyers are calling for him to be returned to Saudi Arabia for psychiatric treatment. Although he admitted as much before he was detained in Afghanistan in 2001, the US detained him and subjected him to brutal forms of torture, including “beatings, exposure to extreme temperatures and noise, sleep deprivation and extended solitary confinement. An FBI official in 2002 observed al-Qahtani speaking to non-existent people, hearing voices and crouching in a corner of his cell while covering himself with a sheet for hours at a time”. The Pentagon has admitted that he was tortured and as a result he has never been charged in over 18 years of detention. The ruling is a first at Guantánamo where the military is secretive about medical records and procedures. In spite of awareness of his mental health illnesses, he is still considered a threat to US security.
The Department of Defense has stated that it is considering reducing the number of staff at Guantánamo, the most expensive prison in the world with only two convicted prisoners, to make the facility more efficient and effective. There are currently 45 military personnel for each of the 40 remaining prisoners.
The third judge in the case of five men accused of involvement in attacks on New York City in September 2001, US Air Force Colonel Shane Cohen, who only took over the case last year, has announced his retirement from the case after just nine months as he is retiring from active military duty in July. He said in a letter that his last day as judge in the case will be 24 April, although no further hearings are scheduled in the case until June. His departure is likely to make the start date for the trial of January 2021, which he set, more improbable. Last month a long-term lead defence lawyer also quit the case on health grounds; these are just the latest obstacles to the show trial going ahead.
Following a hearing in December 2019, the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court in The Hague has authorised an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the US, Afghan and Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan post-2003. Allegations relating to British troops may emerge in the process. The ruling grants the prosecutor greater authority to act on her own initiative. The US has criticised this decision.
LGC ActivitiesOwing to the social distancing and self-isolation measures currently in place to deal with Covid19, the London Guantánamo Campaign’s monthly Shut Guantánamo! demonstration will be held virtually at 12-2pm on Thursday 2 April. To take part, please email a photo/video of your banner to us at email@example.com before 12pm on 2 April or share your picture/video to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/London-Guantánamo-Campaign-114010671973111/ or via Twitter (or just a message) @shutguantanamo between 12 and 2pm on Thursday 2 April. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/London-Guantánamo-Campaign-114010671973111/