Tuesday, January 31, 2023

LGC Newsletter – January 2023

 Guantánamo Bay

At least ten of the remaining 35 Guantánamo prisoners are reported to have contract Covid-19 this month. Given the existing medical facilities and the ageing prisoner population, the outbreak is of concern, however the US military has no plans to draft in or provide any further facilities. Scheduled legal meetings have been cancelled for at least one week.



In mid-January, an appeal was heard in the case of former Algerian prisoner Saber Lahmar in France where he was convicted in 2022 and sentenced to ten years in prison for reportedly having incited individuals to go and fight in Syria and Iraq. His lawyers argued that he does not have the influence on Islamists the court claimed he does.



The lawyer of Ammar Al-Baluchi, one of the defendants in the ongoing 9/11 capital case, has reported that he has been informed by a doctor at Guantánamo that he has a tumour on his spine. According to a report filed, based on MRIs and other diagnostic tests, although currently benign, it will "eventually affect motor or sensory nerves as it grows". “Brain scans also found that the Guantanamo detainee's psychological functioning had "seriously diminished" as a result of the torture, leaving him with a host of issues including traumatic brain injury, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”


Friday, December 30, 2022

LGC Newsletter – December 2022

 Guantánamo Bay

Saifullah Paracha, 75, who was released to Pakistan in October has had a successful heart bypass operation in Pakistan; he had refused to have this operation carried out at Guantánamo. The oldest prisoner held at Guantánamo, there were many concerns about the medical treatment he received there as well as ongoing concerns about the medical facilities for the remaining 35 ageing prisoners.

Over the past month, the Pakistani government has announced that two further Pakistani prisoners may be returning to the country soon and that negotiations are underway with the US to this end.

The US military has also announced plans for a new $435 million medical facility at Guantánamo for its own personnel and not prisoners.


Pre-trial hearings in the case of five prisoners charged with involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York, in which plea bargains are reported being considered and negotiated, set for January 2023 have now been put back to March.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

LGC Newsletter – November 2022

 Guantánamo Bay

Lawyers from the US Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) have filed a petition for a “status conference” in the habeas corpus case of Somali prisoner Guled Hassan Duran, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2006 after being detained in secret CIA torture facilities since 2004. He filed the habeas case, to know the reasons he is being held, in 2016, and the case is pending various motions later filed on the disclosure of evidence. A year ago, the periodic review board cleared Duran for release, however current US laws block the transfer of any prisoners to Somalia, a country currently being frequently bombed by US drones. No safe third country has yet been found for him and such transfers are unlikely under the system in place under President Joe Biden. At the same time, unresolved long-term health issues that cannot be adequately dealt with at Guantánamo are also causing him great suffering, including a recent period of hospitalisation. If granted, this would allow the parties (Duran’s lawyers and the US government) to discuss where the case is with a judge and what steps should be taken next.


Iraqi prisoner Abd Al-Hadi Al-Iraqi, who pleaded guilty to war crimes relating to attacks on US allied soldiers in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, underwent emergency surgery on his spine earlier this month, his sixth operation since 2017: “A neurosurgical team fixed screws, added titanium cages and removed rods inserted into Mr. Hadi’s back in a lengthy operation on Nov. 12, according to a court filing by a prison doctor. The prisoner required blood transfusions during the procedure and suffered an unintended tear in his spinal cord. The doctor described the tear as a “common complication” and said a neurosurgeon plugged it with a muscle graft, suture and seal.” His sentencing has been postponed until 2024 and any plans for him to serve his sentence elsewhere will have to include long-term medical provision, a growing issue for the remaining 35 prisoners. It is not known whether the surgery on 12 November was successful and whether he has regained feeling in his lower back.


Monday, October 31, 2022

LGC Newsletter – October 2022

Guantánamo Bay

Pre-trial hearings took place this month in the capital USS Cole bombing case involving Abd Al Nashiri. The hearings focused on how much hearsay evidence the judge is allowed to admit in the trial as many witnesses are unavailable for the trial of this attack on a US naval vessel which took place near Yemen in 2000. An FBI agent told the court that 20 years earlier Yemeni eyewitnesses had described the attack to investigators and identified Al Nashiri as being involved. However, “Confronted with the image on cross-examination, the former agent, Ammar Barghouty, said he was mistaken. The eyewitness had identified one of the suicide bombers, not Mr. Nashiri, as the tenant. [of property rented to the bombers]” As they cannot find the 100 or so Yemeni witnesses who provided the information at the time, the judge now has to decide whether FBI agents can testify what they were told instead. Many are now retired. The judge, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., must also decide which of the statements “are reliable enough to be presented to the military jury that will someday hear the death-penalty case.”


Initial pre-trial hearings in the case of Indonesian prisoner Hambali and two Malaysian prisoners accused of involvement in the 2003 Bali bombing were due to take place in late October and early November but have been cancelled by the judge.




Friday, September 30, 2022

LGC Newsletter – September 2022

 Guantánamo Bay

Libyan prisoner, Ismail Ali Faraj Ali Bakush, 54, has been cleared for release by the periodic review board. He has been held at Guantánamo without charge or trial for over 20 years. Of the 36 remaining prisoners, 22 have been cleared for release. Bakush cannot be released to Libya given the security situation in the country and thus a “safe” third country will need to be found to host him. At the end of August, his compatriot Abu Faraj al-Libi, a former CIA secret prison detainee, was not cleared and remain one of three “forever” prisoners. Clearance for transfer does not guarantee release, with some prisoners cleared by the Obama administration still held at Guantánamo.



The Biden administration has appointed a senior diplomat, Tina Kaidanow, to oversee the transfer of prisoners who have been cleared for release.

“The administration has also signalled that it will not interfere with plea negotiations that could resolve the long-stalled prosecution of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants.”

In addition, “[…] the University of Pennsylvania released a near 200-page report that provided a road map to closing the facility. The report was drafted by national security experts, including former Guantanamo military prosecutors and defence lawyers, and recommends abolishing the military commissions and resolving the remaining trials through plea bargains.”


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

LGC Newsletter – August 2022

 Guantánamo Bay

On 8 August, the US Department of Justice issued a motion opposing Majid Khan’s habeas petition filed in June at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, having not been released after he completed his sentence at Guantánamo Bay on 1 March. In response to Khan’s claims that “his detention is “arbitrary, indefinite and perpetual, and does not serve its ostensible purpose of preventing his return to the battlefield.””, the DoJ responded that “in addition to its “diligent” pursuit of diplomatic efforts to resettle Khan and its continued “prioritizing” of this effort, Khan’s petition also raised questions for which there currently exists no precedent and that there are constitutional questions that the court should refrain from reaching at this time”". Majid Khan is seeking that “the Biden administration approve Khan’s transfer anywhere outside of Pakistan, where Khan faces risk of persecution.” The US claims that it is urgently seeking a third state to host Majid Khan.



The periodic review board has again refused to clear former CIA secret prison prisoner Abu Faraj al-Libi for release. He has never been charged or tried at Guantánamo.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

LGC Newsletter – July 2022

 Guantánamo Bay

Yemeni prisoner Khalid Ahmed Qasim, who has been held without charge or trial at Guantánamo for over 20 years, has been cleared for release by the periodic review board. He is one of 21 of the remaining 36 prisoners who have been cleared but will remain at Guantánamo for now as the US looks for safe third countries to host them. Only four of the remaining prisoners are “forever” prisoners, whose status has not been clarified and are being held indefinitely; three of them were previously tortured at CIA secret facilities around the world before arriving at Guantánamo.



A three-week pre-trial hearing commenced in the case of Abd Al Nashiri, accused of involvement in attacking a US navy vessel in the Gulf of Aden in 2000. During the hearing, it was revealed that he had told FBI agents that he had been waterboarded by the CIA, as testified by an interpreter; however, this information is not included in the official account of his interrogations prosecutors want to use as evidence of his confession in his death-penalty trial. The interpreter’s testimony also revealed that “The C.I.A. had a secret role at Guantánamo in the detention and interrogations of the men by F.B.I. and Navy law enforcement agents, including collecting the notes from interrogations” and “The C.I.A. required that the interrogators write their accounts of what they learned on agency computers, which were classified”. During the pre-trial hearing, lawyers also raised arguments related to his mental health situation. As a member of the courtroom staff tested positive for Covid-19, the hearing was closed before the end of the first week until at least the middle of the first week of August.