Monday, March 30, 2015

LGC Newsletter – March 2015

Shaker Aamer’s case was subject to a backbench debate in parliament, which activists have been calling for since at least 2013, on 17 March. During the debate on his plight, the motion ‘That this House calls on the US Government to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK’ was passed and a number of MPs made strong, clear statements about Shaker Aamer’s ongoing plight. However, junior Foreign Office (FCO) minister Tobias Ellwood speaking on behalf of the FCO did not answer questions about why Shaker Aamer is still in Guantánamo Bay, what the British government is currently doing or where negotiations stand between the US and British governments. Instead, he prevented any useful debate by putting down the answers to being “intelligence matters” he could not share with the MPs in public.
On the same day, through redacted documents obtained through freedom of information requests in the US, Shaker Aamer’s lawyers at Reprieve obtained documents showing that US officials discussed sending him back to Saudi Arabia while giving assurances to the UK government at the same time.
To coincide with the debate, a day of action was held with Amnesty International delivering a petition calling for Shaker Aamer’s release and return from Guantánamo to the UK, signed by over 40,000 people
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign held a colourful demonstration in Parliament Square and before lunchtime a rally was held inside parliament with speeches by MPs such as Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn and by campaigners including Andy Worthington and Dr Dave Nicholls who delivered the Amnesty petition. The debate and rally were attended by Shaker Aamer’s three sons and other family members. He has never met his youngest son.
More on this day of action:

The cross-party parliamentary group for Shaker Aamer met twice in March. It now has over 40 members, since being set up by John McDonnell MP in November 2014, from all parties. It is currently planning a delegation to visit the US after the general election in May.

Guantánamo Bay:
On 9 March, the US Supreme Court dismissed two appeals by Guantánamo prisoners. In the first case, a Syrian-Kurd Abd al-Rahim Abdul Razak al-Janko, whose release was ordered in 2009 and had been captured while being held prisoner by the Taliban, had his appeal to sue the US government for unlawful detention and torture dismissed and a 2014 judgment in favour of the US government upheld, stating that he cannot sue the US for damages. In the second case, Saudi prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani, who is still held at Guantánamo, lost a case brought on his behalf by the Center for Constitutional Rights for photos and documents of his torture to be released and made public. The reason was that their disclosure would harm “national security”.

Although the case of five prisoners alleged of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York has been adjourned until 20 April, on 10 April, in the case of one prisoner, Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, Judge James Pohl, overseeing the case, released a two-page order stating, following a request by his defence team, that the court cannot intervene to order medical care for him. While held at CIA secret prisons, he was subject to torture that amounted to rape and as a result has caused him long-term physical problems and continued bleeding, for which he has yet to receive adequate treatment, more than a decade later. When making the request in February, it was the first time his lawyers had spoken about the torture he suffered, following the release of the redacted Senate CIA torture report. His lawyer “specifically cited a reference to an investigation of allegations that CIA agents conducted medically unnecessary rectal exams with excessive force on two detainees, one of them Hawsawi, who afterward suffered an anal fissure, rectal prolapse and haemorrhoids.

On 5 March, Yemeni Saeed Sarem Jarabh, 36, became the latest prisoner to be cleared for release by the periodic review board, bringing the total number of prisoners held but who have been cleared for release to 58 out of 122 remaining prisoners. However, the administrative extra-legal review board ruled that his compatriot Khaled Qasim was not cleared due to his non-compliant behaviour at Guantánamo. A new review has been scheduled for 6 months’ time.

Omar Khadr, who is currently held at the medium-security Bowden Institution in Innisfail, Canada, had a bail hearing on 23-24 March in Edmonton. His lawyers have applied for bail pending the outcome of his military tribunal conviction appeal in the US and his lawyer Dennis Edney QC and his wife Patricia have offered to take Omar into their own home. Questions about security and legality were raised in the case which is the first of its kind anywhere, where bail is applied in the enforcement of a sentence handed down in another country. If successful, lawyers for Khadr and the Canadian government will return to court to agree bail conditions. The judge reserved judgment and did not give an indication of when she is likely to make her decision. The hearing was very well attended by supporters of Khadr, so much so proceedings were moved to a larger courtroom. Omar Khadr attended on both days too.

Extraordinary Rendition:
The US military released 43 Pakistani prisoners from Bagram this year, who have all now returned home. Only 6 foreign nationals remain there, in US detention - two Tunisians, two Tajiks, an Uzbek and an Egyptian. Their fate will be decided by the Afghan authorities. It is not clear why they remain detained. The identities of the six men have been confirmed by the US.

On 20 March, a federal judge ordered the release of over 2000 photographs showing the US military abusing prisoners, including at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The US government has 60 days to appeal and had previously argued that the disclosure of the images could put US military personnel at risk.

LGC Activities:
The LGC March Shut Guantánamo demonstration was attended by 4 people. The April demo will be on Thursday 2 April: