Friday, November 28, 2014

LGC Newsletter – November 2014

A new campaign was launched on 24 November outside the Houses of Parliament by journalist Andy Worthington and others called the “We Stand with Shaker” campaign
The launch was attended by politicians including MP Caroline Lucas and Shaker Aamer’s lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith from Reprieve.
On the same day, Reprieve announced that it plans to sue the British government for not doing enough to bring Shaker Aamer back to the UK. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to insist that it is doing all it can. This is in spite of the release this month of 6 other prisoners, including one Saudi national, and the planned release of at least 4 others, and the “special relationship” between Britain and the US.

On 25 November, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign held a parliamentary meeting to discuss Shaker Aamer’s case. The meeting was very well attended and discussed ways of working towards the release of Shaker Aamer to the UK. 

Both events mark the 13th year since Shaker Aamer was captured in November 2001 in Afghanistan. He has never been charged or tried and has been cleared for release on several occasions since 2007.
Guantánamo Bay:
On 5 November, Kuwaiti Fawzi Al-Odah, 37, became only the second low-level prisoner to be released from Guantánamo this year, bringing the total number of prisoners released in 2014 to 7 and the remaining number of prisoners to 148. He is also the first person cleared by a periodic review board to be released since Barack Obama restarted the process at the end of 2013. Periodic reviews are carried out on the status of “forever prisoners”, the 40-odd prisoners who cannot be charged or tried but are also deemed too dangerous for release. Following his review in the summer, he was cleared for release but fellow Kuwaiti prisoner Fayiz Al-Kandari, held for a similar period of time, was deemed too dangerous to release, demonstrating the arbitrary nature of the administrative review process. Al-Odah’s release also came one day after mid-term elections in the US leading a big swing to the right-wing Republican Party and heralding the last two years of Obama’s presidency. The campaign for the release of Fayiz Al-Kandari.
On 20 November, 5 prisoners who have long been cleared for release but cannot be returned to their own countries were released. Four Yemenis and a Tunisian national were released, two of whom are now being resettled in Slovakia and three in Georgia. It is the first time the US has released Yemeni prisoners from Guantánamo since 2010. They make up the majority of prisoners who have been cleared for release but remain held there. 0n 22 November, Saudi national Muhammad Murdi Issa al-Zahrani, who was cleared by the period review board in October, was sent back to Saudi Arabia where he will undergo a rehabilitation programme. Accused of links to Al Qaeda, the board said that such links could not be proven.
There are currently 142 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay and there are currently plans to release at least 4 more in the coming weeks.

A 2-day pre-trial hearing was held in the case of Abd Al-Nashiri on 5-6 November during which his lawyers sought to have hearsay statements made by him and others linking him to the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole withdrawn on the basis that these statements were obtained through the use of torture, in particular when he “disappeared” into CIA torture prisons. Lawyers for Al-Nashiri also asked for the death penalty to be reconsidered in the sentence for his case and raised the issue of the inadequate medical and psychiatric care Al-Nashiri has received considering his ordeal.
On 12 November, in a case before the US federal courts concerning the legality of the panel of judges in Al-Nashiri’s case, the 3 judges stayed the government’s appeal in the case but ruled that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear cases related to military commissions at Guantánamo Bay. The administrative case deals with constitutional issues.

On 7 November, a case brought by hunger-striking Syrian prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab for major changes to be made to the force-feeding regime he and his lawyers argue is tantamount to torture was rejected by the judge Gladys Kessler. While she criticised the US government’s action in the abusive methods used in force-feeding prisoners against their will and transporting them to the feeding room, she sided with the government and appeared convinced by its arguments that the changes sought are actually more detrimental and not more humane to prisoners. Lawyers for Dhiab have said they may appeal.
This ruling does not impact her earlier ruling ordering the US government to disclose videos showing the force-feeding of prisoners.

In a case brought by the family of Pakistani prisoner Ghulam Rabbani, the High Court in Islamabad, Pakistan, has ordered the ministers of interior, defence and foreign affairs to appear before the court in a petition that they must take immediate action for the repatriation of Rabbani, who has never been charged or tried to the country. According to admissions made by former president Parvez Musharraf in a book, he handed over more than 350 Pakistanis to the US government, of whom Rabbani was one such person. His family says he was kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence officers and handed over to the US in December 2001. He was tortured in Pakistan and then taken to Afghanistan where he was tortured at various US-run prisons before being taken to Guantánamo in 2004.

In a hearing before a military commission for Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi, one of the last prisoners to arrive at Guantánamo in 2007, his lawyers argued for all charges against him to be acquitted on the basis that he should be classified a soldier under international laws of war and thus exempt from prosecution as a “lawful combatant”. The US government lawyer, however, considered him a terrorist who should be prosecuted. He is facing a life sentence on charges of organizing attacks on coalition forces in his adopted Afghanistan.
In a separate claim, his lawyers have asked the judge for him not to be shackled or handled by female soldiers and only male soldiers.

Extraordinary Rendition:
On 4 November, a Russian national, known as Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin, was indicted before a court in Virginia on charges of coordinating attacks on US troops in Afghanistan. He had been captured in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held secretly in Bagram for 5 years before being transferred to the US in October. He is accused of being a member of the Taliban. One of dozens of foreigners held secretly at Bagram, his identity and the fact that he was held there for 5 years without charge were only disclosed recently. Given that like most Bagram prisoners, he is likely to have been tortured, the success of this civil case remains to be seen.

In November, the United States came before the United Nations Committee Against Torture at its 53rd session in Geneva. Among other issues, such as the use of solitary confinement, police torture and the death penalty, the US was asked about torture at Guantánamo Bay and in the extraordinary rendition programme. The US admitted that it had used torture and that the UN Torture Convention applies at Guantánamo Bay but sought to defend its actions. One of the persons giving evidence at the hearing was former prisoner Murat Kurnuz from Germany who spoke about his five years as a prisoner. His testimony can be read here:
Following a decision in the case of Libyan Abdel Hakim Belhaj last month, stating that he could sue British officials for their involvement in his torture and rendition, dismissing government claims that such a case could undermine diplomatic relations with the US and secrecy, the High Court has ruled to allow former Bagram prisoner Pakistani Yunus Rahmatullah to sue British officials after he was "rendered" to the US military in Iraq in 2004 by the British army. The US military then held him and tortured him at Bagram for over 10 years until he was released earlier this year. He was never charged or tried. His case also affects claims made by three other men in Iraq, including one who was held at Abu Ghraib. The British government has said it will challenge both the Belhaj and Rahmatullah rulings in the Supreme Court. 

LGC Activities:
The November “Shut Guantánamo!” demonstration was attended by 4 people. The December demonstration will be at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch on Thursday 4th December:

We are currently in the process of organising our action to mark 13 years of Guantánamo in January. As always, we aim to protest creatively. We will need volunteers to make our action a reality. In particular, we are looking for actors (amateur or professional) to play journalists and Barack Obama, reading out real texts of speeches about Guantánamo, film makers and photographers and other forms of help in the run up to the event and on the day. Please get in touch if you’d like to help out or want more details.
At the very least, please help us promote the event and share it on your social media Follow us for updates on Twitter @shutguantanamo Thank you!