Sunday, October 03, 2010

Beyond Words…Nine Years of Guantánamo Bay

To mark the ninth anniversary of the opening of the illegal detention and torture camp at Guantánamo Bay on 11 January 2002, the London Guantánamo Campaign will be holding a silent lunchtime vigil from 1-2pm on Tuesday 11 January 2011 on the north side of Trafalgar Square, opposite the National Gallery (at the top of the steps).

We invite you to join us for part or all of your lunch break to mark this anniversary. Demonstrators are invited to wear orange jumpsuits (which we will provide) and to hold up placards in an otherwise silent protest.

Nine years since Guantánamo Bay opened, please join us to protest this unspeakable injustice, the silence of our government in its collusion in gross human rights violations and the deafening silence of the international community over the past nine years.

Please watch this space for more details or get in touch.

LGC Newsletter - September 2010

LGC Newsletter – September 2010


British Residents:

In the ongoing court case brought by six former British prisoners, residents and nationals, to force the government to reveal what it knew of their torture, abuse and arbitrary detention, more documents have come to light showing that former Prime Minister Tony Blair knew of the torture faced by British prisoners at Guantánamo Bay within weeks of the facility opening in 2002. A letter dated 18 January 2002 contained handwritten comments that were allegedly made by Tony Blair on the treatment of prisoners: . The government was also made aware that prisoners had been tortured in Afghanistan. Several of the documents made public were heavily redacted:

Guantánamo Bay:
On 29 September, the jury was sworn in the case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 36, a Tanzanian who is the first prisoner due to stand trial in a civilian court in New York as opposed to before a military tribunal. Charged with involvement in the 1998 bombing of US Embassies in east Africa, he is accused of purchasing the explosives used in those attacks. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2004 and was held at secret CIA "black sites" for two years, during which time American officials have admitted that he was subject to "enhanced interrogation techniques”. He was transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2006 and then to the US mainland in June 2009 to stand trial before a Federal court. In May this year, his lawyers lost a case to have all charges against him dropped as he had been tortured at Guantánamo Bay and the 57 months that he was held there denied him the right to have a trial within a reasonable amount of time. However a Manhattan judge ruled that the national security interest in the case was overriding and it could go ahead. Ghailani, who has denied all charges, was due to start his hearing on Monday 4 October, however this has been set back to Wednesday 6 October. The trial has been set back as approval is pending for a key prosecution witness. The trial is likely to last several months and could set an important precedent for the civilian trial of other prisoners facing charges. Several other men prosecuted for the same crime in 2001 are currently serving life sentences.

In mid-September, Germany accepted two prisoners to settle in the country. This is in addition to the efforts it made to have its one resident repatriated several years ago. One of the men, now settled in Hamburg, is Ayman Al-Shurafa, a Saudi-born Palestinian prisoner, who was free to leave for several years but could not return to the Palestinian Territories. Another prisoner has been settled in another area. Both have been offered homes and medical care. Germany’s interior minister said that Germany has "made its humanitarian contribution to closing the detention centre”. Luxembourg, which had also expressed an interest in accepting a prisoner and had entered negotiations with the US government to accept a Yemeni prisoner backed down after the US rejected the release of the prisoner as he had expressed his intention to return to his own country. The US is refusing to repatriate Yemeni prisoners, who make up the single largest nationality of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay. The Maldive Islands are also close to requesting the settlement of the last Palestinian prisoner, who also cannot return home, to settle there.

On 29 September, a federal judge in Washington dismissed a case brought by the family of two men who died in mysterious circumstances at Guantánamo Bay in June 2006. The families of Saudi prisoner Yasser Al-Zahrani and Yemeni Salah Al-Salami asked for the case into their deaths to be re-examined following new evidence that emerged this year. The Pentagon claims that the two men and a second Saudi prisoner committed suicide, however statements from soldiers on duty that night claim that the men were taken to another camp and later returned to their cells, shortly after which it was reported that they had committed suicide. The judge said that the allegations themselves were not enough to constitute evidence and that matters relating to conditions of detention at Guantánamo Bay were for Congress to resolve, due to national security concerns, as stated in another court ruling.

Journalist Andy Worthington is currently updating the information he has on the 176 remaining prisoner at Guantánamo Bay in eight instalments. The introduction and lead into the other parts can be read here: The articles update their legal status, new information about them as well as recent information about conditions at Guantánamo Bay and the lack of legal process there or any questioning about it.

Extraordinary rendition:
On 9 September, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled narrowly (6-5) to prevent victims of extraordinary rendition, including British resident Binyam Mohamed from suing Jeppesen Dataplan, a division of Boeing, for its involvement in "torture" flights, organising and transporting them to and from “black sites” for the CIA. Last year, five victims of extraordinary rendition in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were given leave to bring their case, however the Obama administration, following firmly in the footsteps of its predecessor, invoked the "state secrets doctrine", claiming that it was not in the interest of national security to have the case heard in public. The judges “reluctantly” accepted the government’s arguments to keep all the information secret due to national security concerns, however conceding that the CIA had acted wrongly, whether or not that information could be produced openly in court, it ordered the government to pay reparations to the plaintiffs, even though they had lost the case. The ACLU will now appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.

On 12 September, a group of 9 UK human rights NGOs wrote to the chair of the torture inquiry, Sir Peter Gibson, setting out the areas they believe the inquiry should cover in order to be thorough and effective. The letter can be read at: These measures include that the inquiry must be prompt, independent, thorough and subject to public scrutiny. It should also be as public as possible with publication made of the findings and with the involvement of NGOs and those affected.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition also wrote to Sir Peter Gibson in early October setting out the measures they believe need to be taken in the inquiry The MPs also called for the role played by ministers, senior civil services and the intelligence officers to be taken into account.
Although the Prime Minister, who announced the inquiry in July, wishes to see it start its work this year and conclude next year, this is unlikely to happen with various ongoing court cases against the Foreign Office and intelligence services for their involvement in torture abroad.

At its annual party conference on 19 September, the Liberal Democrats passed a unanimous motion on the torture inquiry: It called for as much publication and as much evidence in the inquiry as possible to be made public. It also called for accountability.

Former Labour leadership contender and older brother of the current Labour leader, David Miliband, was consulted by MI6 during the three years that he was Foreign Secretary before proceeding with intelligence-gathering operations in foreign countries. This included gathering information from prisoners held in countries that torture. Although he blocked some operations, others were authorised. During his time as Foreign Secretary, several British nationals were tortured in foreign jails with the knowledge of the British government. These countries include Bangladesh and Egypt.

In July, when the Prime Minister announced the torture inquiry, he also published new guidelines for intelligence officers when interrogating suspects abroad. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is threatening to take legal action against the government if it does not take immediate steps to remedy loopholes in this guidance which could breach human rights law. The EHRC does not consider the guidelines to go far enough to prevent involvement in torture, for which agents could still be prosecuted in this country. The government was given until 30 September to respond to a letter from the EHRC or otherwise legal action would be taken.

LGC Activities:
The September monthly Shut Down Guantánamo! on Friday 3 September was attended by several people as was the October demonstration on Friday 1 October. The next demonstration will be on Friday 5 November at 6-7pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, W1A 1AE.

The LGC is starting to plan its action for the ninth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay on 11 January 2011. Please get in touch with us if you would like to get involved and help out.

The LGC also urges concerned individuals to continue writing to their MPs and the Foreign Office about Ahmed Belbacha, and urging the UK to accept him. Given recent, positive measures by other states to accept prisoners and the urgency of Ahmed Belbacha's plight, please continue writing and demanding that the government takes action. Mr. Belbacha's immigration status over nine years ago is completely irrelevant to where he is now. The British government must act on humanitarian grounds. Please let us know if you get a response. Thank you.

London Guantánamo Campaign