Friday, May 30, 2014

LGC Newsletter – May 2014

Guantánamo Bay:
At the beginning of May, the Yemeni government announced a presidential decree that it would look into building a rehabilitation centre to accommodate prisoners returned to the country from Guantánamo Bay. This move could speed up the repatriation of Yemeni prisoners who make up the largest single nationality (70+) as well as the largest number of prisoners cleared for release (57). Some lawyers for the Yemeni prisoners have expressed concerns that this effectively means only further imprisonment – without charge – upon return to the country and not actual release, as well as continuing surveillance at the behest of the US. Last year, Barack Obama lifted a moratorium he imposed in 2010 preventing the return of Yemeni prisoners to the country, but none have been released since. No reasons have been given for the failure to release these innocent men over the past year.
In the meantime, the prisoner status review panel has cleared another Yemeni prisoner for release. 35-year old Ghaleb Nassar al Bihani was cleared for eventual release and recommended for resettlement in a third country rather than Yemen; he does not wish to return to the country, although he would accept repatriation there. He is known to be in poor health. His lawyer later stated that “the security and other agencies on the board rightly determined that his continued detention of more than 12 years is unnecessary." This brings the number of prisoners held but cleared for release to 79 out of a total of 154.
Earlier in May, another prisoner, Saudi Mohammed al-Shimrani, refused to attend his review panel hearing due to the intrusive physical body search he would have to be subject to in order to do so. He described the search as “humiliating and degrading”.

Uruguayan President José Mujica has stated that his country will accept 6 Guantánamo prisoners who have been cleared for release but cannot return home for their own safety or do not have homes to return to: they are 4 Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian. He met the US president during a visit to the country. Mujica has asked the US to move fast – all the men have been long cleared for release – but the US has responded only that it will consider the request. Uruguay has insisted it will treat the men as ordinary refugees whereas the US may demand security assurances, as it does with other states.

The Guantánamo hunger strike is currently in its 15th month. Although the US military stopped providing statistics on hunger strikers long ago, at least 17 prisoners are reported to still be involved and are being force-fed against their will.
Prisoners brought a court case to prevent the military authorities from destroying newly-discovered videos of force-feeding procedures, as part of a lawsuit to stop the military from force-feeding the prisoners altogether. The prisoners won the case and the judge ordered hundreds of such videos to be preserved.  Further filings in the case after the judge made this ruling revealed that one prisoner, Pakistani Ahmed Rabbani, contracted a chest infection due to the incorrect insertion of the tube on many occasions leading him to cough up blood.
On 16 May, one hunger-striking prisoner won a very temporary relief when a federal judge ordered that military authorities do not tube-feed Syrian prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab or remove him from his cell for this purpose until a hearing the following Wednesday (when the above ruling on the videos was made). However, a week later, the same judge reluctantly removed the order, even though it causes the prisoner “agony”, due to the risk that he could die, as he would still refuse food. She criticised the military’s actions “"Thanks to the intransigence of the Department of Defense, Mr Dhiab may well suffer unnecessary pain from certain enteral feeding practices and forcible cell extractions. However, the Court simply cannot let Mr Dhiab die."” Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was cleared for release in 2009, will continue to be force-fed until further progress is made in the case.

The trial in the case of Abd Al-Nashiri, accused of attacks against US military vessels in Yemen in the early 2000s, for which he faces the death penalty, is unlikely to start until February 2015, having been set back further by the judge. Preliminary procedural issues continue to be argued in pre-trial hearings that continued this month. One of the main reasons for the latest delay is an order by the Guantánamo military judge last month ordering the military to hand over full details – names, places, dates – of what happened to Nashiri in the four years between 2002 and 2006 when he was kidnapped in the UAE and “disappeared” into the CIA’s network of illegal torture prisons over 3 continents. This is currently the subject of cases before the European Court of Human Rights. In spite of the judge’s order, the prosecution is refusing to hand over this information as it argues that the judge does not have the power to force the disclosure of such government information. This was one of the issues brought up at this month’s pre-trial hearings.

The wife of the US military officer former Canadian Guantánamo child prisoner Omar Khadr is alleged to have killed and a US soldier he is alleged to have injured have filed a case against him in a Utah court seeking damages of over $45 million. The case has yet to be accepted by the court, but if admitted, could prove highly problematic for both the US and Canadian authorities with Khadr’s on-going cases in Canada and appeal of his conviction in the US, in addition to asking the court to accept evidence acquired through the use of torture. Omar Khadr’s lawyers have said that they have not been formally informed of any case.

Extraordinary Rendition
On 14 May, 10 Pakistani prisoners were released to Pakistan from Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, where some had been held for a decade without charge or trial. The released men include Yunus Rahmatullah, who was “rendered” to the US military by British soldiers in Iraq in 2004, when he visited the country for a religious pilgrimage. The men “disappeared” upon return to Pakistan and their lawyers brought a court case to force the government to admit they had been detained. They remain in detention and will soon meet their families and lawyers. Other Pakistani prisoners released at the end of last year had charges pressed against them after return to the country and face trial, even though the US deemed them innocent when it released them from Bagram.

LGC Activities:
The May “Shut Guantánamo!” demonstration was attended by 4 people. The June
demonstration will be at the regular time of 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch on Thursday 5th June:

Over 70 people joined a lunchtime protest we held in Trafalgar Square on 23 May as part of a Global Day of Action to Close Guantánamo, marking the anniversary of Barack Obama’s latest major pledge to close Guantánamo Bay. Protesters held up placards stating “Not another day in Guantánamo” and an inflatable Shaker Aamer drew awareness to the plight of the last British resident held there. The LGC thanks everyone who joined us for a successful action that was well received by the public. Here is our report of the action in London with pictures, links to other media on the event and our letter published in The Guardian newspaper on the day:
The London action was one of over 40 actions worldwide in 7 different countries: Australia, Canada, Poland, Mexico, Germany, the US and the UK. Hundreds of people took part worldwide. A comprehensive round-up of the international actions:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Report: Global Day of Action to Close Guantánamo: Not Another Day in Guantánamo demonstration in London

By Aisha Maniar

On 23 May 2013, Barack Obama made the latest in a long line of high-profile broken promises to close Guantánamo Bay. During his speech on national security, Obama conceded that the original premise for opening Guantánamo “was found unconstitutional five years ago”, and “that [it] flouts the rule of law,” as well as that it costs the US taxpayer over $1 million a year to keep each prisoner there. These are not convicted prisoners: they are 154 men who have been held for over 12 years, almost all without charge or trial, as hostages of the US administration.
Barack Obama made his latest pledge at the height of media coverage of an on-going hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay. Over the past year, he has released 11 prisoners including former British resident Ahmed Belbacha to Algeria, reinstated the envoy to work on the closure of Guantánamo he dismissed just days before the mass hunger strike broke out in February 2013, restarted status reviews of prisoners detained indefinitely and lifted a moratorium on returning prisoners to Yemen he imposed in 2010. This is slow progress, and the fact that no Yemenis have been repatriated, even though they make up the largest single nationality and the largest number cleared for release, shows there is little intention to close Guantánamo and end indefinite detention there.

That may be good enough for the Obama administration, but it is yet another blow for the prisoners. With minimal progress and a lack of political will to close Guantánamo, and little mainstream media coverage of their plight, human rights organisations and activists around the world decided to remind Barack Obama of his latest broken promise on its anniversary. More than 45 actions were held worldwide in 9 countries on this day.

In London, over 70 people joined a lunchtime demonstration we organised in Trafalgar Square to call for Barack Obama to make good on his promise to close Guantánamo and to remind both the British and US governments that British resident Shaker Aamer remains there. Activists, some wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods, held up placards made by the LGC’s Noel Hamel that read “Not Another Day in Guantánamo” with the word “justice” chained to each letter of the name of the prison camp. Activists from Peace Strike brought along an inflatable larger-than-life Shaker Aamer to draw awareness to his plight outside the National Gallery. The silent protest drew a lot of interest from the public, leaflets were handed out and activists spoke to passers-by. With hardly any coverage in the mainstream media of Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer or the hunger strike, now in its 16th month, many people were not aware that it was still open, let alone the various abuses and torture that continue there. 

The action was supported by many organisations including Veterans for Peace UK, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, Peace Strike, local Amnesty International groups, the Quakers, Friends of Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, Occupy and Kingston Peace Council. The LGC thanks everyone who joined us.

The campaign to close Guantánamo goes on, and we cannot do it without YOU!  Thousands of people worldwide took action on 23 May but with political and media inaction, the general public has to give Barack Obama every reason to show us a change WE can believe in by closing Guantánamo and ending the lawless regime it has created.

The LGC had the following letter published in The Guardian newspaper on 23 May:
“On 23 May 2013, President Barack Obama made the last major speech in which he again pledged to close Guantánamo Bay. His many pledges on the matter remain purely rhetorical. On Friday, human rights activists and organisations will take part in a global day of protest in more than 40 cities in nine countries to remind Obama of his broken pledge. In London, we will hold a public demonstration in Trafalgar Square from 12pm to 2pm.
Last year, Obama asked the American people: "Is this who we are?" With on-going torture, indefinite detention and the latest ruling by a US federal judge on force-feeding of prisoners, his actions have responded in the affirmative. Although he has released 11 prisoners, the slow progress after so many years shows there is no real intention of ending what can be considered a mass hostage crisis. For the 154 remaining prisoners, held almost wholly  without charge or trial, rhetoric is not good enough.”
Media on the event:

Demonstration: Not Another Day in Guantánamo! 23 May, 12-2pm, Trafalgar Square

Not Another Broken Promise! Not Another Day in Guantánamo! Demonstration 
23 May, 12-2pm, 
Trafalgar Square, London 

On 23 May 2013, at the height of media focus on the ongoing hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay, Barack Obama made another promise to close the prison camp. In spite of positive measures in that time, such as the release of 12 prisoners, 154 prisoners remain, almost all of whom have been held without charge or trial for over 12 years.

With an ongoing hunger strike and daily human rights abuses against prisoners, the Obama administration continues to demonstrate that it has no interest in justice or freedom.

As part of an international day of action coordinated by Witness Against Torture (USA), the London Guantánamo invites you to join us for a demonstration to remind the US government and the mainstream media that Guantánamo prisoners do not only matter when politicians care to notice. These prisoners, including South London Shaker Aamer suffer injustice and indignity every day and have done so for over 12 years. Enough is enough…Not another broken promise! Not another day in Guantánamo!

For further details, please e-mail:

The May 23rd Day of Action is coordinated by Witness Against Torture in collaboration with Amnesty International, Blue Lantern Project, the Center for Constitutional Rights,, Code Pink, London Guantánamo Campaign, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantánamos, the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition, Veterans for Peace, and World Can’t Wait.  For a list of actions worldwide, please see

Thursday, May 22, 2014

MEDIA RELEASE: London Guantánamo Campaign to mark 23 May Global Day of Action to Close Guantánamo with demonstration in Trafalgar Square, 12-2pm

On Friday 23 May, the London Guantánamo Campaign [1] will hold a “Not Another Day in Guantánamo!” demonstration outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square at 12-2pm. Activists in London will wear orange jumpsuits, black hoods, holding up placards calling for the closure of Guantánamo Bay and the safe release of the remaining 154 prisoners.

This is part of a Global Day of Action to Close Guantánamo, with protests planned in over 40 cities worldwide, across three continents [2]. The day of action marks the anniversary of President Obama’s last major pledge [3], on 23 May 2013, to close Guantánamo, which has yielded little progress.

Aisha Maniar, a spokesperson for the London Guantánamo Campaign, says, "In over five years as US president, Barack Obama has failed to deliver a change we can believe in on Guantánamo Bay. Twelve years of indefinite detention almost wholly without charge or trial for 154 prisoners has made the world an infinitely more insecure, dangerous, and lawless place. Closing Guantánamo has long been a question of when as opposed to how.

"A prisoner hunger strike ongoing more than 15 months later, in addition to his failure to transfer any Yemeni prisoners - who make up the largest nationality and the majority of those cleared for release, following the lifting of a moratorium - signal that Obama’s words remain purely rhetorical. There is little intention to close Guantánamo Bay and the legal black hole it has created.”


1. The London Guantánamo Campaign was set up in 2006 and campaigns for justice for all prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, for the closure of this and other secret prisons, and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition.     

Further details of the London demonstration are available at:

2. For a full list & contact information, visit: