Wednesday, February 27, 2013

LGC Newsletter – February 2013

British Residents:
February 14 marked the eleventh anniversary of Shaker Aamer’s imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay. The anniversary was marked on 13 February by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (SSAC) with a vigil in Parliament Square in the afternoon. Several dozen people attended. They were joined by MPs Sadiq Khan, Jane Ellison, John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas. Activists wore orange jumpsuits and held placards calling for Shaker Aamer’s release and return to the UK. A letter was delivered by the SSAC to the Prime Minister David Cameron to coincide with the anniversary.
On 14 February, Amnesty International marked the anniversary by delivering a petition with 20,000+ signatures to the US Embassy in London demanding US President Barack Obama release Shaker Aamer: All the signatures were collected within a month with an additional 30,000 collected by Amnesty USA.
Names can still be added to the petition for Shaker Aamer’s release to David Cameron: This petition can be signed until 20 April 2013; 100,000 signatures on the petition will lead to a debate on this issue in Parliament.

Guantánamo Bay:
In spite of the military commission system at Guantánamo Bay comprehensively having fallen apart over the past few months with the rulings in the Hamdan and Al-Bahlul cases to overturn convictions - due to the retroactivity of the charges (offences did not exist in law at the time they were committed) and as some charges are not recognised war crimes - the Pentagon has pressed ahead with pre-trial hearings this month.
Abd Al-Nashiri, a victim of extraordinary rendition kidnapped in the UAE in 2002, whose story was covered in the LGC’s “All Roads Lead to Guantánamo” action in January and who currently has cases pending against Poland and Romania for its involvement in his torture, was the first to have his pre-trial hearings resume in the first week of February. He is accused of having masterminded attacks on American military vessels in the Gulf in the early 2000s and faces the death penalty. During the pre-trial hearings, motions were dropped for the case to be halted as the defence claims that the CIA had listened in to private conversations between Al-Nashiri and his lawyers. The judge, however, allowed a doctor with expertise in dealing with torture victims to give video evidence on how Al-Nashiri should be examined in a pre-trial medical examination that will determine whether he is fit to stand trial. A CIA report has admitted that he was waterboarded and threatened with a drill to make him confess. At a pre-trial hearing last year, he was even physically unable to sit at his trial due to the pain of the injuries he suffered during the four years that he “disappeared” into CIA secret jails. His defence lawyers claim he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The pre-trial hearing is likely to resume in mid-April.
Pre-trial hearings also resumed in the case of five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York in September 2001. This case, which is also heavily affected by the Hamdan ruling last year, continued its controversial path when it was discovered that the CIA listened in to confidential meetings between the defendants and their lawyers (in the guise of smoke detectors in meeting rooms - spying on such meetings is illegal). Lawyers also complained that the defendants had confidential legal documents removed from their cells during cell inspections, as well as books and other personal items. All of this had led defence lawyers to question whether they are being prevented from fulfilling their duties. The system applied at the military commissions is a new system that is untested and is being made up as the trials progress. In view of the use of torture evidence and the clear lack of fairness in the proceedings, the trials cannot be considered more than show trials. Pre-trial hearings in this case are also due to resume in April.

Extraordinary rendition:
On 5 February, Open Society Foundations published an important new report on extraordinary rendition and international collusion in it. The report “is the most comprehensive account yet assembled of the human rights abuses associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. It details for the first time what was done to the 136 known victims, and lists the 54 foreign governments that participated in these operations. It shows that responsibility for the abuses lies not only with the United States but with dozens of foreign governments that were complicit.
The United Kingdom is included among that list of countries: “The U.K. government assisted in the extraordinary rendition of individuals, gave the CIA intelligence that led to the extraordinary rendition of individuals, interrogated individuals who were later secretly detained and extraordinarily rendered, submitted questions for interrogation of individuals who were secretly detained and extraordinarily rendered, and permitted use of its airspace and airports for flights associated with extraordinary rendition operations”

After months of stalling and moving the investigation away from the centralised prosecution service, Poland has decided to drop charges against Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the former intelligence chief in a further blow to its investigation into its role in running a torture facility for the CIA. He was charged last year after it emerged that he had extensive knowledge about the facility and relations with the CIA. In a disappointing move to an investigation that started off with promise in 2008, lawyers and activists in Poland have accused the authorities of stalling the investigation to prevent embarrassment for senior officials. Following on from the ruling against the CIA at the end of last year finding it guilty for the torture and extraordinary rendition of German Khaled El-Masri by the European Court of Human Rights, further evidence has been filed against Poland in a case brought against it by Abd El-Nashiri for collusion in his torture at secret CIA-run torture facilities there. Lawyers for another victim, Abu Zubaydah, have filed a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights to hear his case as the investigation in Poland, now in its fifth year, is progressing so slowly.

Following a ruling last September to uphold the convictions of CIA agents and Italian intelligence officers involved in the 2003 extraordinary rendition of an Egyptian national, Hassan Mustafa Nassar, who was kidnapped near his home in Milan, a Milan court has sentenced former intelligence chief Nicolò Pollari to 10 years in prison and his former deputy Marco Mancini to 9 years for their role in the kidnapping and rendition. Pollari’s lawyer has claimed that he has been unable to represent his client properly as large parts of the case fall under Italian national security secrecy laws. The two men are likely to appeal the sentences and will not be jailed until the appeal process is exhausted.

LGC Activities:
The LGC marked the sixth anniversary of its regular “Shut Guantánamo!” demonstration in February with a special “I am still waiting for…” action at which activists held up placards with their messages to President Obama. The action then continued until 5pm, taking a slight detour to the other side of Marble Arch to Speaker’s Corner, for an impromptu action outside the Odeon cinema where torture film Zero Dark Thirty was playing. Around a dozen activists joined the afternoon action (see  picture) and the public response was very positive and supportive. The next demonstration will on Thursday 7 March at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, W1A and then 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch (Hyde Park):