Monday, September 30, 2013

LGC Newsletter – September 2013

British Residents:
Shaker Aamer has brought a case before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal against the security services for their ongoing involvement in his detention at Guantánamo Bay. The case concerns untrue defamatory comments made about him by the security services which continue to provide the basis of his detention and their involvement in his interrogations in 2002 when he was held at Bagram in Afghanistan.

September monthly demonstration, at Marble Arch
Guantánamo Bay:
Two former Algerian prisoners, Nabil Hadjarab, 34, and Mouati Sayab, 37, who returned to the country after being released from Guantánamo Bay on 28 August were released from jail under “judicial supervision”, a form of supervised parole on 5 September, having been detained upon their return:

In a meeting between Barack Obama and the Emir of Kuwait in Washington on 13 September, the Kuwaiti leader raised the issue of the continuing detention without charge or trial of two Kuwaiti nationals, Fayiz Al Kandari and Fawzi Al Odah. He called on the US President to speed up the process of releasing them as part of his commitment to close Guantánamo. During the visit, it was agreed that a Kuwaiti delegation would visit Washington and Guantánamo to discuss the two men’s cases. Previous stipulations for the men to be returned, such as the building of a $40 million rehabilitation centre in Kuwait that remains unused, have all been met by the Kuwaiti government.
Briefings were also given in September to the Kuwaiti parliament and ministers concerning efforts by a special committee on the “Kuwaiti Hostages in Guantánamo”.
The ongoing pre-trial hearings in the case of five men accused of involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York resumed on 16 September and were immediately hampered by a number of problems, including a sick defence lawyer and interruptions by the defendants demanding they be allowed to speak. The hearing was then adjourned until Wednesday 18 September, when it resumed to consider whether or not the pre-trial hearings should be adjourned until next year to sort out some technical issues with computers and secure communications. The judge will make his decision later on this matter.
Before the hearing, it was revealed that in a secret hearing in August, the judge had made a secret judgment to not allow evidence to be withheld from the defendants and their counsel by the US government. This was the first secret hearing in this case, for which the courtroom was emptied of the public and defendants and the judgment itself is heavily redacted.

Omar Khadr, 27, who returned from Guantánamo Bay to Canada on 29 September last year, where he remains detained in a maximum security jail, had his first ever hearing in a proper court of law on 23 September, when he appeared before an Edmonton court to consider whether he should be moved from a maximum security jail to a provincial prison, in view of the offences that he was convicted of at Guantánamo Bay took place when he was a minor and that such a facility would be more conducive to his reintegration into society. Supporters held a demonstration outside the court and over 120 pro-Omar Khadr supporters crowded the courtroom to show their support, an emotional event for many as it was the first they and Khadr came face to face. Omar Khadr did not address the court or his supporters but his lawyer Dennis Edney spoke outside. The judge has reserved judgment on the matter until a later date. This hearing is the first on the road to securing justice for Omar Khadr.

On 24 September, the US military which was slow to report the existence of a mass hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay declared that it was over with the number of prisoners on hunger strike stabilising at 18 with 17 force fed for the past few weeks. The US military said it will no longer provide updates on the hunger strike. Lawyers for the prisoners who have visited recently say that conditions have largely returned to how they were prior to the hunger strike. Six prisoners had been on long-term hunger strike before this action started in February. The hunger strike was met with heavy-handed and repressive measures, including solitary confinement, physical searches of prisoners, deprivation of personal items, and nasal-tube force feeding among others. The hunger strike did achieve some of its objectives, forcing Barack Obama to revisit his broken promises to close Guantánamo, but more needs to be done to ensure that the remaining 164 prisoners are released and the prison closed.

Extraordinary Rendition
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks marked the twelfth anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks by calling on the 47 members of the Council of Europe to be held accountable for their involvement in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme following the attacks, reflecting on “the anti-terrorist response adopted by the USA and Europe. By allowing unlawful detentions and interrogation techniques amounting to torture, this response caused further suffering and violated human rights law.” He called for a full investigation, for states to re-open investigations and not allow secrecy laws to prevent them from disclosing what they know or affording impunity to state officials.

Following a failure to respond by European Union states to a resolution passed by the European Parliament on 11 September 2012 on complicity in extraordinary rendition, updating an earlier European Parliament report and calling for mechanisms to be set up to ensure accountability, the European Parliament set up on 4 September a new motion calling for accountability and investigations by member states.

A former CIA chief, who is wanted in Italy, having been convicted of involvement in the 2003 extraordinary rendition to Egypt, via Italy and Germany, of Milan-based Sheikh Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, has asked the country to pardon him. In July, Robert Seldon Lady was briefly detained in Panama pending possible extradition to Italy to serve his sentence, handed down in absentia. He apparently did not realise that the conviction made him a fugitive and he could be extradited to Italy at any time to serve his 9-year sentence. He also claims that he was told that what he was doing at the time was legal.

On 16 September, three habeas corpus cases were brought before the DC Circuit Court in Washington concerning prisoners held without charge or trial at Bagram in Afghanistan. The right to know why you are detained (known as habeas corpus) afforded to Guantánamo prisoners is not granted to prisoners at Bagram. Having handed the prison over to the Afghan authorities last year, the US military continues to hold and control the detention of 57 prisoners, mainly foreigners. The court has been asked to consider whether or not they can challenge their detention by bringing habeas corpus cases, to know why they are being held, which has worked for some Guantánamo prisoners. The cases were dismissed last year but the prisoners have been allowed to appeal. One case involves a prisoner who was detained at the age of14 and was a minor at the time. None of the individuals involved know why they are detained.
One of the lawyers, Eric Lewis, defending his client Amanatullah wrote the following him and the bizarre “legal” conditions that justify continued detention at Bagram:

Amnesty International has called on Lithuania to reopen its investigation, closed in 2011, into its operation of torture prisons for the CIA. It emerged in September that another prisoner, Mustafa Al-Hamsawi, a 45-year old Saudi national currently held at Guantánamo Bay and one of the defendants in the 9/11 case was held there and tortured at some point between 2004 and 2006. A complaint was filed on his behalf with the Lithuanian authorities on 13 September.

British extraordinary rendition victim Mahdi Hashi has been on hunger strike in the US since August in protest at the harsh conditions of detention he faces there. Hashi, 23, moved with his family to the UK from Somalia aged 7 and acquired British nationality. He returned to live in Somalia and “disappeared” there last year. Shortly before his “disappearance”, he had his British citizenship removed without explanation, which he is currently fighting in the UK courts, and had been harassed by MI5 to work for it. He then resurfaced months later in US custody, charged with involvement in terrorism offences, for which he is currently detained in solitary confinement awaiting trial.

LGC Activities:
The September monthly “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 5 September. Nine people joined the protest. One of the protesters at this month’s demonstration was Mavis Condon from the Raised Voices choir who sang a song she penned a few years ago called “Time to Close Guantánamo”.
Geraldine Cowan from the London Guantánamo also read some poems of her own:
The October demonstration will be at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, opposite Marble Arch, Hyde Park, on Thursday 3 October:    This month’s demonstration will be in solidarity with Mahdi Hashi, British extraordinary rendition victim on hunger strike in the US and British citizens Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad who were extradited to the US on 5 October 2012.

The London Guantánamo Campaign has started to work on its action to mark the 12th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay opening in January 2014. If you are interested in getting involved in any way, please let us know. We would appreciate your support.