Thursday, May 31, 2012

LGC Newsletter – May 2012

British Residents:
Shaker Aamer’s American lawyer Ramzi Kassem has obtained new information which sheds light on the abuse his client continues to face. Declassified notes from a January meeting between the two men show that Mr Aamer was held in solitary confinement from July to December 2011 as punishment, during which time he was confined to his cell 24 hours a day and subjected to sleep deprivation techniques. In the two months prior to his lawyer’s visit (December 2011 and January 2012), he was subject to beatings, for which he says he did not receive adequate medical treatment.
More on this news:
Spectacle Films has made a new short documentary (18 minutes) on Shaker Aamer’s plight. This interesting and informative film (recommended viewing!) can be viewed at:

Andy Worthington has written an update on the case of former Bournemouth resident Ahmed Belbacha, who like Shaker Aamer, remains at Guantánamo Bay, over five years after having been cleared for release and never having faced any charges:

Guantánamo Bay:
An American company involved in the building of the prison units and cages at Guantánamo Bay has been shortlisted among other contractors for a £1.5 billion contract to run policing facilities in the West Midlands and Surrey, as part of the Coalition government’s first attempt to privatise this key public facility. Kellogg Brown & Root, which was previously owned by Halliburton, winning major Pentagon contracts after 9/11, is part of one of the bidding consortiums. Its former chief executive is former US vice-president and advocate of the use of torture, Dick Cheney.

Abdul Aziz Naji, an Algerian prisoner released from Guantánamo Bay and forcedly returned to Algeria in 2010, has been denied bail by an Algerian judge even though he met all the bail criteria, and remains in jail. Although cleared of all charges by the US, Mr Naji was convicted in January this year and sentenced to a three-year sentence on the charge of membership of a terrorist organisation abroad, based on allegations made while he was held at Guantánamo; according to his lawyers at Reprieve, no new evidence was brought against him or any proving the charge. Prisoner conditions in Algerian prisons are notorious and Mr Naji’s health complications suffered as a result of US detention are further exacerbated by his current situation. His lawyers plan to reapply for bail as well as appeal his conviction.

The military tribunal of Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001 started on 5 May amid much controversy. President Barack Obama, starting his presidential re-election campaign at around the same time, had suspended military tribunals and promised civilian trials for Guantánamo prisoners when he assumed the presidency in 2009. Despite changes having been made to the system, evidence tainted by torture will still be admitted – most of the defendants have been subject to waterboarding, among other forms of torture – and national security sensitive material is being kept closed. The defendants refused to answer the judge’s questions. The next hearing in this court case will take place in early August.
A good analysis of the proceedings is provided by Tom Parker of Amnesty USA:
Since this hearing, at which the men were all formally charged, the military commission board is now considering whether it should hear their cases separately. The judge has ordered prosecutors to file submissions providing reasons why the cases should not be heard separately. He did not state how many separate cases he may consider. The prosecution usually prefers to have cases heard together. This is the first time joined cases are being heard at Guantánamo Bay.

Al-Jazeera has issued a new documentary about the use of music as a form of torture at Guantánamo Bay, featuring the composer Christopher Cerf, who composed the theme song of the popular children’s TV programme Sesame Street and at least 200 other songs for the show. His songs were played loudly and incessantly as a form of abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Mr Cerf was reportedly shocked to learn of how his music was used. The documentary can be watched on Al-Jazeera or online at

Extraordinary rendition:
Lloyds Bank, which is 40%-owned by the UK taxpayer, is one of a number of City firms under pressure for its investment in an American company allegedly involved in rendition flights. Lloyds has an £8.5 million investment in CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation) which is accused of helping the CIA to organise the flight schedules for rendition flights. Reprieve has asked CSC investors to pressure it into taking a public stand against torture. CSC has not responded to a letter from the legal charity but Lloyds and other investors have demanded that CSC address these allegations.

On 16 May, the European Court of Human Rights started to hear the first case brought before it concerning extraordinary rendition. Following failed attempts to prosecute the American and German authorities before the US, German and Spanish courts, the current case is being brought by Khaled El-Masri, a German national, against Macedonia for its role in his kidnap and torture. In 2003, while on holiday in the country, Mr El Masri was kidnapped and detained illegally in the country for three weeks before being handed over to the CIA, which flew him to Afghanistan where he was tortured for months before being released. Realising that it was a case of mistaken identity, Mr El Masri was flown to Albania where he was released and left on a roadside by his captors. The case is being brought for a breach of his right to liberty and freedom from torture. Other countries are likely to be prosecuted too as part of this case and as more evidence is revealed, implicating countries such as Germany.
Other cases are pending against other Council of Europe states, including Lithuania and Poland by prisoners held at secret jails in those countries.

A new academic project has been started by Dr Ruth Blakeley at the University of Kent and Dr Sam Raphael at Kingston University called the Rendition Project This project aims to bring together all the available public data on extraordinary renditions, including on individual cases, the countries involved, issues and cases, providing an extensive wealth of information and a new understanding of the CIA’s extralegal programme.

On 29 May, almost a week after originally planned, the government published the draft Justice and Security Bill. Although climbing down over plans for secret inquests, the government is keen to press ahead with plans to ensure that cases such as those brought by Binyam Mohamed and former Guantánamo prisoners against the government for its alleged involvement in their rendition and torture are never brought again. The latter case ended in an out-of-court settlement. The proposals, to use closed courts and secret evidence in the alleged course of protecting “national security” seriously threaten to undermine the English legal system as it has existed for centuries and have already faced considerable opposition.

LGC Activities:
The May “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 4th May and was attended by 7 people. The June demonstration is on Thursday 7 June at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm at Marble Arch:

The London Guantánamo Campaign spoke at the Stop The War Coalition “No to NATO!” demonstration on Saturday 19 May, attended by several hundred people. We also joined the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign at a stall to raise awareness and collect signatures on the Shaker Aamer e-petition.

Tuesday 26 June marks International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The LGC will be holding a vigil to mark that date and show solidarity at 6-8pm in Trafalgar Square (north side). We invite you to join us: We will need help with this event so if you can help out – planning or on the day – please let us know. More details shortly.