Tuesday, July 31, 2012

LGC Newsletter – July 2012

British Residents:
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (SSAC) website has been relaunched at http://www.saveshaker.org/ with news about the e-petition and other campaign work linked to Shaker Aamer’s case. Please visit the site for updates and news.

Guantánamo Bay:
The US government is currently considering transferring a number of Afghan prisoners suspected to be militants to Afghanistan as part of a deal to restart talks with the Taliban. Previously, as part of similar talks, the US intended to send several Afghan prisoners to Qatar to be placed under effective house arrest there, considering it too risky to return them to Afghanistan. However, it is now considering transferring others, considered low-risk prisoners, to Afghan custody, where they would be likely to be held at a currently US-run prison near the Bagram detention facility. Talks between the Taliban, the Afghan government and the US broke down earlier this year and it is hoped that this move will help to restart negotiations. However, it is also further proof that Guantánamo prisoners are merely pawns in the political and diplomatic games of others. President Karzai of Afghanistan has, for his part, consistently demanded the return of all Afghan prisoners to the country.

The Pentagon has dropped war crime charges against Kuwaiti prisoner Faiz Al Kandari, accused in 2008 of being involved with Al Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism. He was never referred for trial and now all charges have been dropped without reason. The US and Kuwaiti governments are also stepping up efforts to secure the release of the two remaining Kuwaiti prisoners at Guantánamo Bay: Mr Al Kandari, and Fawzi Al Odah, who has never faced charges. A further 10 Kuwaitis have already been released. In mid-July, lawyers for the two men in Kuwait brought a court case against government officials to pressurise them to seek the release of the two remaining prisoners.

Hearings for five men accused of involvement in the 11 September attacks in New York in 2001, including Khaled Sheikh Mohamed, have successfully petitioned for the next stage of their trial to be set back from 8-12 August to 22-26 August, so as not to clash with the Muslim month of fasting Ramadan, which ends a few days before 22 August.

On 10 July, Sudanese prisoner, Ibrahim Al-Qosi, 52, convicted on terrorism charges in a secret plea deal in July 2010, was released to Sudan. This is the first time a convicted prisoner has been released under the Obama administration. Having served his two-year sentence in return for pleading guilty, he was released to prove that the US administration will honour its part in plea bargains made with prisoners. On the other hand, while the US is keen to release Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr, who has been free for release since October 2011, the Canadian government is still refusing to implement measures – the writing of a letter requesting his transfer back to the country by Minister Vic Toews – that would see that happen promptly. There are currently 168 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay.
Nine months after Omar Khadr completed his sentence under his plea bargain and was free to return to his native Canada to serve the rest of his sentence for war crimes, he remains in Guantánamo Bay. His release should have been sought at the latest by the end of May. While the US is keen to return 25-year old Khadr to Canada, as it feels that the delay in this case may deter other prisoners from entering plea bargains, Canada on the other hand has not honoured its pledge to seek his return. A mere letter signed by the Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews potentially stands between Khadr and his release. A petition started earlier this month by Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire has attracted more than 28,000 signatures already demanding the Canadian government officially seek his release. You can add your name to the petition at: http://www.change.org/omarkhadr Lawyers for Omar Khadr also started court proceedings in mid-July seeking the court order the government to demand Omar Khadr’s release. The Canadian government has not provided reasons for why it has not yet done this. Instead, in further foot-dragging, Minister Toews wrote to the US government seeking further confidential videos and psychiatric reports to see if Omar Khadr is fit to return to the country. Many consider this to be a further stalling tactic to delay Mr Khadr’s return.

A declassified US Department of Defense report has emerged this month providing further evidence that prisoners held at Guantánamo and other prisoners held under the “war on terror” had been drugged and given powerful antipsychotic drugs in detention and particularly prior to interrogations, impairing their ability to represent the truth. Many prisoners have alleged that they have been forced to take drugs against their will during their imprisonment.

Extraordinary rendition:
Poland’s investigation into its role in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme and the existence of a secret torture prison outside the village of Stare Kiekuty could lead to the prosecution of high-level military, intelligence and political figures. Although charges have been brought against the former head of intelligence, it is likely that many senior figures were involved and could face prosecution too. Documents have now emerged, according to a Polish senator, that show that a local contractor was asked to build a cage at the village. Other evidence has emerged that the former head of intelligence Zbigniew Siemiatkowski signed a document authorising the setup of the prison.
In mid-July, as part of an ongoing European Union Parliament investigation, EU states complicit in extraordinary rendition were asked to apologise for their role in facilitating the torture and illegal detention of victims. A full report is expected later this year.
Since then, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has demanded that the Polish government hand over the documents mentioned above, which evidence authorisation for the prison to be set up. Lawyers have brought a case at the court against Poland on behalf of Abdul Rahim Al-Nashiri, the Yemeni national currently facing trial at Guantánamo for his alleged role in the bombing of a US warship, the USS Cole, off the coast of Yemen in 2000, who is known to have been waterboarded, among other forms of torture, he faced when he “disappeared” into CIA “black sites” for over 18 months before arriving at Guantánamo Bay. This request coincides with the timing of Al-Nashiri’s trial in the US. The court is also seeking to know whether Poland allowed Al-Nashiri to be tortured and then sent to a country that uses the death penalty, Morocco, which is also a breach of Poland’s international human rights obligations.

Three Kenyan nationals who were kidnapped and “rendered” to Uganda, where they are currently held and face charges for alleged involvement in a bombing in Kampala in 2010, lost their case in the High Court to force the British government to provide evidence that it was complicit and aware of the torture they had faced, so they can use that evidence, of abuse, in their trial. They claim that following their kidnap and “rendition” to Uganda in the summer of 2010, British and American intelligence officers were present while they were tortured to confess during interrogations and were aware of their abuse. Although allowing the prisoners to bring the claim, the trial was heard in partially closed hearings, sections of the trial counsel for the prisoners were not allowed to attend or know what happened during these proceedings, and the final judgment was partly closed as well, meaning that the prisoners and their lawyers do not know the full reason for the judgment made. The government is currently seeking to roll out such secretive court proceedings in its controversial Justice and Security Bill. The judges decided that while the prisoners allege gross abuses of their human rights and face the death penalty, it could not compel the intelligence services to disclose what it knows or what it has done. Furthermore, they did not state whether British intelligence officers were involved in collusion in torture and rendition. This case relates to events in the summer of 2010, some months after the current coalition government took power. Although it is always claimed by the current leadership that torture and rendition collusion were actions of the former Labour government, it has possibly just succeeded in hiding its own involvement in international crimes against humanity.
Earlier this month, lawyers for Yunus Rahmatullah, a Pakistani national held at Bagram since 2004, following his rendition by the British army in Iraq to US force there, took his case to the Supreme Court to force the British government to seek his release from illegal US detention. At the end of last year, the court of appeal ruled his detention illegal and ordered the UK to demand his release; however, foreign office ministers said they had no power to instruct the US to act. Using memoranda of understanding signed by the US and UK militaries on matters including the treatment of prisoners and in light of the Geneva Conventions, lawyers for Mr Rahmatullah, whom both the US and UK have since conceded poses no risk, are seeking to secure his release.
LGC Activities:
The July “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 4th July and was attended by 7 people. The August demonstration will be held on Thursday 2 August at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park (opposite Marble Arch): http://www.facebook.com/events/338481986231989/
The LGC has started an urgent action of Omar Khadr urging you to add your name to two petitions to the Canadian government and to write letters to Minister Vic Toews and the Canadian High Commission in the UK. More details: http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/take-action-for-omar-khadr-canada-must.html  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Take Action for Omar Khadr: Canada must repatriate its sole citizen in Guantánamo Bay immediately

The betrayal and abuse of Omar Khadr has gone on for far too long: don’t be a party to it, take action and add your voice to international calls for his immediate repatriation to Canada

Omar Khadr, 25, is a Canadian prisoner who will have been held by American forces for 10 years on 27 July 2012; on this date in 2002, aged just 15, he was captured in Afghanistan. Shot, blinded, threatened with rape and other forms of physical and psychological abuse at Bagram and Guantánamo Bay, Omar Khadr is the only child soldier to have been tried as an adult before a military tribunal for war crimes allegedly committed as a minor since World War II. In October 2010, in a secret plea bargain and subject to the use of torture evidence approved by the military tribunal, Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to throwing a grenade that killed one American soldier and wounded another. As part of the plea deal, Omar Khadr was to have his sentence slashed to just eight years, of which he could serve the final 7 years in his native Canada. He has been due for release since October 2011. Although extradition proceedings have been commenced by the US and Canada in his case, Canada has not formally sought his return from the US; the US, on the other hand, is keen to return him, as it fears that the delay in honouring its side of the deal could deter other prisoners from entering similar plea bargains, on the basis that they may not be released eventually. Indeed, given Canada’s foot-dragging, last week the US released another convicted prisoner to Sudan.

Canada has been constantly criticised for its failure to act in Omar Khadr’s case. In 2010, the Canadian Supreme Court stated that the Canadian government had violated Omar Khadr’s constitutional rights. Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire, the retired army general who led UN forces in Rwanda during the genocide in the mid-1990s and an outspoken advocate for child soldiers, described his country’s treatment of Omar Khadr as reflecting “Canada’s moral drift” in 2010. The UN Committee Against Torture condemned Canada’s stance in June 2012 and demanded the country seek the immediate repatriation of Omar Khadr.

The LGC has taken action for Omar Khadr with a letter writing campaign, along with an Amnesty International group, during the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 http://www.muslimdirectory.co.uk/viewarticle.php?id=484 and a demonstration and petition to coincide with his trial: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/08/456827.html and http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/dangerous-international-precedent.html The LGC also spoke at an Amnesty International UK screening last week of the documentary “Four Days in Guantánamo” (the trailer can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZrERVO19Dg).

At the very latest, Omar Khadr should have been returned to Canada at the end of May this year. Omar Khadr’s lawyers are now taking his case to court to force the Canadian government to take back ONE Canadian citizen, who has spent almost half his life in illegal detention. WE CALL ON YOU TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION AND ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT TO HONOUR ITS OBLIGATIONS AND DUTIES TO ITS CITIZENS AND UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW.

1. Add your name to the petitions (and then get your friends, family and colleagues to do likewise):

Senator Roméo Dallaire has put together the following petition to Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, who has to sign the letter for Omar Khadr’s release: http://www.change.org/omarkhadr

The following petition has also been put to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper: http://www.change.org/petitions/prime-minister-stephen-harper-repatriate-toronto-born-omar-khadr-to-canada-and-rehabilitate-him

2. Send letters to Minister Vic Toews and the Canadian High Commissioner in London:

Amnesty International UK has put together the following letter. Please add your name to it and send or amend/personalise it and send it off. Please let us know if you get a response:

I urge you to take swift action to approve Omar Khadr’s pending request to be transferred out of Guantánamo Bay and back to Canada.

July 27th 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of Omar Khadr being taken into custody by US soldiers in Afghanistan, where he was held for three months before being transferred to Guantánamo Bay, where he has remained ever since. He has endured a decade of human rights violations, without relief or remedy. Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern that Canada has failed to intervene to ensure that Omar Khadr’s rights were properly safeguarded. As a result, numerous serious concerns, including his rights as a child soldier, detention without charge or trial, credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment, access to legal counsel and family visits, and fair trial provisions, have been disregarded by US officials.

The plea deal agreed to by Mr. Khadr in October 2010 was based on the understanding that, as of October 31, 2011 he would be eligible for transfer back to Canada. The Government of Canada acknowledged and accepted that transfer was integral to the plea deal by means of a diplomatic note provided to the US government at the time. In November 2010 former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon stated that “we will implement the agreement that was reached between Mr. Khadr and the government of the United States.” US officials have indicated they would support the transfer and are in fact eager to see it go through to encourage other detainees at Guantánamo to enter into similar deals. His transfer application has been with your office for well over a year; and all necessary approvals for his transfer have been finalized by US officials. Your prompt approval of this transfer application will demonstrate that the Canadian government is now taking a strong stand for full and proper protection of Mr. Khadr’s rights.

Yours Sincerely

Please send copies to:

The Honourable Vic Toews, (address: Dear Minister:)
Minister of Public Safety,
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
E-mail: vic.toews@parl.gc.ca

Mr. Gordon Campbell, High Commissioner for Canada
High Commission of Canada to the United Kingdom in London
Macdonald House
1 Grosvenor Square
London, W1K 4AB
Fax: 0207 258 6333

Other useful information: