Friday, January 31, 2014

LGC Newsletter – January 2014


Guantánamo Bay:
Following the release from Guantánamo Bay of nine prisoners in December 2013, bringing the number of remaining prisoners to 155 in total, Barack Obama has been continuing slowly with his stated plans to close the prison.
Just one day before Guantánamo’s 12th anniversary, a periodic prisoner status review cleared a Yemeni prisoner, Mahmoud Mujahid, 33, held indefinitely without charge or trial for over 12 years, for release. He was one of almost 50 prisoners previously considered too dangerous to release but without enough evidence to charge. The 6-member panel found him that he “no longer posed a continuing significant threat to the US.” However, the news that he can be released is not necessarily positive as he now joins the ranks of dozens of other Yemeni prisoners cleared for release, found to pose no threat to the US, but who remain there nonetheless. Considering the country too dangerous to release prisoners to in 2010, Barack Obama imposed a moratorium preventing Yemeni prisoners from being released there, but lifted it in May 2013. Nonetheless, not a single one of the 60+ Yemeni prisoners who are cleared for release have been sent home since.
In his annual State of the Union address to the US people on 29 January, Barack Obama stated that this is the year to close Guantánamo.
However, the Guantánamo hunger strike which reaches its first anniversary on 6 February is still ongoing, with over 30 prisoners reported to be taking part, including British resident Shaker Aamer.
On 28 January, a second periodic prisoner status review was held, only the second in the past 3 years, and this time a whole 19 minutes of the proceedings were made accessible to the public via a video relay before going into a closed session hearing. The public were able to see but did not hear Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al-Rahabi, a 34-year old Yemeni, who the US accuses of being an Al Qaeda member.

Contrary to earlier reports in the Canadian media that Omar Khadr was to be moved imminently to a medium-security prison following his reclassification as a medium-security prisoner, his lawyer, Dennis Edney, has confirmed that there are no immediate plans to move him and he remains in a maximum-security prison in Edmonton. It was reported that he would be moved to the Bowden Correctional Facility but while that is still on the cards, he will remain where he is for the foreseeable future.

On 22 January, the fifth anniversary of Barack Obama signing a decree to close Guantánamo by 21 January 2010, 31 retired US army personnel wrote a letter to him calling on him to close Guantánamo; the signatories include formal generals and admirals. They stated in their letter: “Guantanamo does not serve America’s interests. As long as it remains open, Guantanamo will undermine America’s security and status as a nation where human rights and the rule of law matter.” The signatories had also stood behind Barack Obama when he signed the decree which has long been broken. Barack Obama’s administration continues to blame Congress for much of the delay in releasing prisoners.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has refused to pursue any disciplinary measures against one of its members, John Leso, a former army major reserve, for his involvement in the brutal torture of former Saudi Guantánamo prisoner Mohamed Al-Qahtani, who had charges dropped against him and was subsequently released once the brutal way in which the evidence had against him had been obtained. The APA did not deny his involvement, in a letter concluding a year-long investigation it carried out, even though he acted in breach of professional ethics.

Pre-trial hearings in the case of 5 prisoners alleged to have been involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks that were suspended for a year pending a mental health assessment of one of the defendants may resume earlier than that after it was reported that Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh has refused to undergo an assessment. Al-Shibh was supposed to meet the three-member panel in early January but declined, saying he was unable to. A hearing is scheduled for next month but it is unclear if Al-Shibh is one of the defendants involved.

Extraordinary Rendition
A Washington Post report on 23 January claims that the CIA paid the Polish authorities $15 million in cash to run secret torture facilities for it. This money was given to Polish intelligence counterparts and formed the basis of an agreement signed between the two countries to run torture camps in Poland. The report documents the process of setting up the secret prison, the transfer of prisoners there from other countries, through extraordinary rendition, and the torture they faced, including waterboarding.
In response, a former Polish intelligence chief, Marek Siwiec, who headed Poland's National Security Bureau from 1997 to 2004, during the period in which the CIA operated its jail, said that it is time for Poland to come clean on its involvement and has called for a thorough investigation. He claims that he never knew about the torture facilities when he was in charge.
Following information published in the incomplete Detainee Inquiry report in December, police in Scotland will be asked to investigate the possible use of Scottish airports at Glasgow and Prestwick for torture flights.

An American punk band, Skinny Puppy, who discovered that their music was used on at least four occasions to torture prisoners at Guantánamo Bay has come up with a novel way of protesting the unauthorised use: they decided to send the US government an invoice for its use, but instead of mailing it, they have made it the cover of their album, Weapon: “We had a cool concept on the record because we heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people. We heard that our music was used in at least four occasions. We thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the U.S. government for musical services, thus the concept of the record title, Weapon.” How did the band feel about this use of their music? “Not too good. We never supported those types of scenarios. It's kind of typical that we thought this would end up happening, in a weird way. Because, we make unsettling music we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn't sit right with us.

Following a refusal by the Lithuanian public prosecution services to investigate allegations of running torture facilities for the CIA, involving current Guantánamo prisoner Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, a higher court has overruled this decision and called for an investigation, following an appeal by human rights organisations.

LGC Activities:
The LGC marked the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay with a demonstration attended by over 250 people from across England in Trafalgar Square on 11 January. A visual display, creating a wall of orange and white banners, outside the National Gallery protested the continued operation of Guantánamo and speakers raised important points about the issues, including a lawyer and several politicians. Messages of support were also read out.
A full report with links to pictures, videos, etc. & is available here:

Our next monthly demo on 6 February will be a special demonstration with a candlelight vigil and spoken word to mark not only the seventh anniversary of our regular protests outside the embassy but also the first anniversary of the Guantánamo hunger strike on the same day. For this reason, the vigil has been moved to the evening – be sure to join us!

Friday, January 17, 2014

6 February: Candlelight vigil/spoken word outside US Embassy, London, 6-8pm

On Thursday 6th February,
The London Guantánamo Campaign
Invites you to a

Candlelight vigil and evening of poetry/spoken word

Outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London, W1A 2LQ
At 6-8pm
Thursday 6th February marks the seventh anniversary of the London Guantánamo Campaign’s regular demonstrations outside the US Embassy in London. Since February 2007, we have held weekly (until August 2008) and then monthly demonstrations outside the US Embassy calling for the closure of Guantánamo Bay, other similar prisons like it, such as Bagram in Afghanistan, and justice for the prisoners. We will continue until Guantánamo closes.

This date also marks the first anniversary of the current Guantánamo hunger strike, currently involving over 30 prisoners, which started on approximately 6 February last year. The LGC was the first organisation worldwide to hold a solidarity protest with theGuantanamo hunger strike and led an international weekend of action to mark the 100th day in May 2013, as well as other solidarity actions. Over the past year, the LGC has also been involved in solidarity actions with other hunger-striking prisoners, including those in Pelican Bay and American prisoner in Iraq, Shawki Ahmed Omar.

The LGC invites you to join us at a candle light vigil with spoken word. We are inviting the public to join us in a reading of prisoner poetry – from Guantánamo and elsewhere – and to contribute their own in an evening of remembrance and solidarity.
For more details, e-mail:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On Twelfth Anniversary of Guantánamo Bay, London says “Shut it Down!”

By Aisha Maniar

More than 250 people from across England joined a demonstration on Saturday 11 January outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to mark the twelfth anniversary of the opening of the extralegal prison camp at Guantánamo Bay and to call for its closure.

After 12 years, 155 prisoners remain held there, almost wholly without charge or trial, and many have been engaged for almost one year in a hunger strike against their ongoing arbitrary detention and conditions of detention. The hunger strike has prompted Obama to remember his broken promise to close the prison in 2009, yet his recent actions remain half-hearted and insincere. Most of the nine prisoners he released in December 2013 – to Algeria and Slovakia – remain in a precarious situation and the periodic reviews of prisoner status are progressing slowly; these could see prisoners held indefinitely cleared for release. Barack Obama could show real commitment to closing Guantánamo by immediately releasing Shaker Aamer to the UK, a country the US has a “special relationship” with, and the over 50 Yemeni prisoners who have been cleared for release for years. Yemenis make up the largest nationality at Guantánamo Bay. Obama placed a moratorium on returns there in 2010 preventing the release of prisoners; although he lifted this in May 2013, not a single Yemeni has been returned home.

The demonstration started with a photo shoot, creating a wall of banners with a bright orange motif outside the National Gallery to highlight the ludicrous fact that this legal anomaly has existed for 12 years and continues to function with the blessing of the international community and the powers that be worldwide.

The demonstration brought together politicians and activists against the prison camp. Speakers at the demonstration included politicians MP Jeremy Corbyn (Labour: Islington North), Tony Clarke (Green Party) and Sarah Ludford MEP (Liberal Democrat: London) and activists from NGOs such as Katie Taylor from Reprieve, who read out a statement by their client Shaker Aamer, and Noa Kleinman from Amnesty International. The LGC, a grassroots campaign, was joined by speakers from some of the grassroots organisations it works with, such as Ben Griffin from Veterans for Peace UK, Lindi Carter from WISE Up for Chelsea Manning and Joy Hurcombe from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, as well as solicitor Louise Christian, who represented 4 British nationals held at Guantánamo Bay and Yemeni peace activist Muna Othman.

Before the end of the demonstration, Aisha Maniar and Val Brown read out messages of support from Norman Baker MP and Jean Lambert MEP, which can be read below. Val Brown also read out a message of support from former prisoner Omar Khadr. 

The LGC supports all victims of injustice and campaigns against illegal prisons and torture elsewhere, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. The demonstration was joined by the wife and daughter of Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American-Jordanian who was arrested in Iraq in 2004 along with his wife, who is Iraqi, and has been subject to torture at Camp Nama, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere; he was convicted in 2010 in an unfair trial and the Iraqi authorities last year told his family he will not be released when he has finished his sentence. His 8-year old daughter Zainab, who has never met her father, spoke courageously about how much she would like to meet him. You can read about his shocking story here:
A message by his wife Narmeen Saleh was read out by Aisha Maniar. The text is below.
In November 2013, Amnesty International launched an urgent action for him:
A cold but sunny afternoon, a wide range of people joined to show their solidarity, and outside the National Gallery, the LGC also had a display of artwork by some of the prisoners, as well as plenty of chanting calling for Guantánamo to close. The response from passers-by was largely positive and supportive. Many tourists visiting London expressed their solidarity. Given the almost blanket lack of coverage in the media, many people did not know it was the anniversary. 

The London Guantánamo Campaign thanks the wonderful people who were involved in organising the event, our speakers for their work for Guantánamo prisoners, and the excellent people who joined us, including the 25 who travelled from Brighton, the handful from Peterborough and activists from Yorkshire.

We hope you will join us to make sure there is no anniversary to mark next year. Please get involved in our upcoming activities, including our demonstration next month to mark 7 years of our regular demonstration outside the US Embassy and the first anniversary of the Guantánamo hunger strike. We have some exciting plans for the year – watch this space and get involved!
Media coverage:


For videos from the day, including Katie Taylor from Reprieve reading Shaker Aamer’s statement, please visit our YouTube page.

Elsewhere in the UK, in Birmingham, the play Guantánamo Boy was performed followed by a panel discussion. Photographer Richard Keith Wolff photographed and interviewed former prisoner Moazzam Begg:

Statement by Jean Lambert MEP:
I'm very sorry I cannot be with you today, but I am in Athens speaking on the health-care crisis in Greece - another avoidable tragedy.

This is the 12th year of the existence of Guantanamo. Every year, we mark the anniversary hoping it will be the last time. Hoping that those still detained there will be released or charged and that those charged will be tried in a public, civil court where all the evidence can be heard and tested.

The fact that Guantanamo remains open is a stain on the human rights record of the United States. President Obama must fulfil his pledge to close the camp.

I welcome the recent, small progress. I welcome the decision of the Slovakian Government to take 3 Uighur detainees and wish more EU governments would take such action, as the European Parliament has repeatedly demanded.

The UK still has to bring Shaker Aamer home to his family in London. I still cannot understand why this has not happened - he has been cleared for transfer, he has not been charged - he should be here with those who love him.
Today's demonstration is important. It shows that those held in Guantanamo are not forgotten and that there are people who believe that international law must be upheld and that human rights must be respected. Guantanamo must close.
Norman Baker MP (courtesy of Sara Birch, Brighton Amnesty):
It is deeply disappointing that Guantánamo Bay remains open, and that large numbers of individuals have been held for years without any proper legal justification, without charge and without trial. Naturally we in the UK are particularly concerned about the continued detention of Shaker Aamer, a concern only heightened by the state of his health.

As a government minister I can vouch for the fact that our Foreign Office has actively and repeatedly raised the matter with the US authorities but sadly without success.

I congratulate Amnesty and all the many individuals across the party and of no party who keep the spotlight on this case, and call upon Barack Obama, not just to release Shaker Aamer, but to honour his commitment to close Guantánamo Bay and remove this stain from the United States.

Statement by Narmeen Saleh, wife of Shawki Ahmed Omar (Abu Ghraib prisoner):

Shawki Ahmed Omar is an American citizen who has been unjustly detained in the jails of Iraq for nine years. He has never been allowed to see a lawyer or discuss his case. Furthermore, he is not allowed to contact his family.

Three months ago, we were informed by the Red Cross that my husband has been transferred to the infamous torture facility, Abu Ghraib. We hold our breaths everyday as we hear about inmates dying under torture in Abu Ghraib.

My husband had been on hunger strike for 6 months. As a result, he now vomits blood and suffers from many illnesses; yet, he is not even given the most basic medical care.

As we have no way of being reassured about his state so long as he remains in that notorious place, our initial aim is to get him transferred to a prison in the north of Iraq, where we can at least have a chance of visiting him.

I ask every person and every organisation capable of helping my husband to please help save what is left of his life.
London Guantánamo Campaign