Friday, December 30, 2016

LGC Newsletter – December 2016

Guantánamo Bay:
There are currently 59 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay. On 4 December, Yemeni Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, 35, was transferred to Cape Verde in Africa. A former “forever prisoner”, he was cleared for release in July by the periodic review board. His assessment found that he had been mistakenly deemed to be an Al-Qaeda fighter. He was never charged during his 14 years at Guantánamo. Balzuhair is the second former prisoner to be accepted by the island state. In 2010, it accepted another prisoner who remains there, although he has never been allowed to meet any of his family members in the six years since his release.
With the second round of periodic reviews underway for those who were not previously cleared, a further three prisoners have been cleared for release in December and are the last few to be cleared under Obama. 23 prisoners are currently cleared for release once suitable host countries have been found to take them or if they can be returned home.
In early December, 37-year old Yemeni Salman Rabeji was cleared for release following his second appearance before the board in early November. He was recommended for release to a Gulf state.
37-year old Yemeni prisoner Yassim Qasim Mohammed Ismail Qasim and his compatriot Mohammed Al-Ansi were also cleared for release. In Al-Ansi’s case, the decision was made within days of his second review hearing being held. He was accused but never charged with being a personal bodyguard to Osama Bin Laden. He has consistently denied any involvement with Al Qaeda.
Two other Yemeni prisoners had their cases reviewed for a second time in December. The final one was held on 15 December and is also the final one under Obama’s presidency. It is unclear whether this administrative practice will continue under Trump. 36-year-old Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman was the final prisoner to have his case reviewed.

Pre-trial hearings continued in two military commission cases at Guantánamo. On 5 December, hearings in the case of 5 men allegedly involved in the September 2001 attacks on New York resumed. Saudi prisoner Mustafa Al Hawsawi, who was subject to sustained sexual abuse while a CIA prisoner, returned to the court for the first time since an operation in October to repair a torn rectum, which has made it painful to sit or relieve himself, among other difficulties. It later emerged, as his lawyers also learned for the first time, that he had been treated for haemorrhoids and not a torn rectum. This was stated by a doctor providing testimony during the hearing. His lawyers wanted to ask the doctor about the treatment he had received while a CIA prisoner but the judge insisted that questions were asked only about the operation he had had in October and how that might affect his ability to attend court. Hawsawi was in considerable pain during the hearing and did not testify.
During the hearing, there was also controversy about discussing the torture the five prisoners had been subject to in secret CIA detention and whether such discussion would confirm the treatment they were subject to. Prosecution lawyers asked for such discussion to take place in closed sessions; the request was granted.

Pre-trial hearings also continued in the case of Abd Al-Nashiri accused of involvement in the 2000 bombing of a US naval vessel, the SS Cole, in the Gulf of Aden. Seeking to use the torture he faced as a means of having the case thrown out, his lawyers asked for CIA agents involved at the time he was waterboarded to testify about the treatment he received. One of these individuals is James E. Mitchell, a psychologist who is currently being sued by the ACLU for involvement in designing the CIA’s torture programme, who has also recently published a new book called “Enhanced Interrogations” in which he talks about the torture he was involved in, including the waterboarding of Al-Nashiri.
Other issues discussed included whether Al-Nashiri should be allowed to spend the nights at the compound of the war court during hearings as the torture he had been subject to had caused medical illnesses for him and the journey to and from his cell each day was tiring and making him ill. Other motions continued to press for the whole Senate Torture Report from 2014 to be disclosed to the defence. Barack Obama has stated that his copy of the report will be archived. Senator Dianne Feinstein has again called for the whole report to be disclosed to the public. During the pre-trial hearing, 2024 was suggested as a start date for the actual trial into the case.
With the judge in this case not approving the preservation of the Senate Torture Report for potential future use in the trial, US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth made a decision for this to be done and “all evidence, documents and information, without limitation, now or ever in the [U.S. government’s] possession, control or custody, relating to the torture, mistreatment, and/or abuse of detainees held in the custody of the Executive Branch” since Sept. 11, 2001” to be maintained and preserved, as well as to deliver a copy of the report to the military commission court. The report contains a whole chapter on the torture Al Nashiri faced in CIA detention.
It has emerged that in April, the Obama administration asked Israel to accept the transfer of a Kenyan prisoner and to prosecute him as he cannot be tried at Guantánamo. Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu, 43, has been held at Guantánamo since 2007. From statements he gave to the US military while a prisoner prior to arrival at Guantánamo, as revealed by Wikileaks, it is alleged that he was tenuously involved in a terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002. Israeli officials are reportedly prepared to accept the transfer and to prosecute him, however the process has not moved forward as the FBI has so far refused to provide Israel with more information than that leaked by Wikileaks; in particular Israel has asked for the confession of his involvement in the attack in Mombasa. Lee Wolosky, Barack Obama’s special envoy for Guantánamo, who oversees arrangements for transfers, visited Israel in April to discuss the visit.

On 16 December, former Guantánamo prisoner Jihad Diyab, a Syrian refugee who was released to Uruguay in 2014, left Uruguay for South Africa. He flew to Johannesburg but was refused entry as he apparently did not have an entry visa. Diyab was promised on his release that he and his family, whom he has not seen for over 15 years and are currently refugees in Turkey and Syria, would be reunited. This has not happened in over two years in spite of repeat promises. Earlier this year, Diyab left Uruguay and travelled to Venezuela but was deported. He went on hunger strike after his return losing consciousness more than once. He has since been told he can leave Uruguay and a third country where he can join his family will be found. He thus ended his hunger strike in October but no new plan has been agreed.
At around the same time, the Uruguayan government agreed with the other 5 prisoners released to the country in 2014, who are also refugees, to extend the support package they are in receipt of – accommodation and a stipend – until February 2018, although the stipend has been reduced. While the Uruguayan government claims that three of the men are in employment, these are not well paid jobs or full time. Although he plans to leave the country, the Uruguayan government has said that Jihad Diyab is entitled to this package as well.
Barack Obama’s administration has revealed that he plans to transfer at least 17 of the 23 prisoners currently cleared for release before he leave the White House. Plans are currently underway to transfer the men to countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman and Italy, which means that they will be transferred to highly restrictive conditions or detention, at the behest of the USA, abroad.
At the same time, Barack Obama has once again approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2017 preventing the transfer of Guantánamo prisoners to the US mainland. However the law includes provisions for the temporary transfer of prisoners to the US mainland for medical treatment and to start the construction of possible prisons to hold prisoners on the mainland in the future.

LGC Activities:
The last Shut Guantánamo! Demo of 2016 and under Barack Obama’s presidency was held on Thursday 1 December at 12-1pm. There is no monthly demonstration in January as it is replaced by the Guantánamo anniversary protest on 11 January 2017:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LGC Newsletter – November 2016

Guantánamo Bay:
The first round of periodic review board hearings and recommendations to see whether prisoners who have not been charged or approved for release can be released or continue to be held as “forever prisoners” concluded in November with a Saudi prisoner being cleared for release through this administrative procedure. Jabran Qahtani, 39, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002 became the 21st prisoner cleared for release. An engineering graduate, he was initially charged at Guantánamo but legal proceedings were quickly dropped. He has been recommended for transfer to Saudi Arabia only. At the same time, the board rejected the release of Yemeni prisoner Hani Saleh Rashid Abdullah, 47. He will come before the review board for a second hearing on 8 December.
At the same time, as those prisoners whose pleas for release were rejected by the board in the first round generally had to wait 6 months before being entitled to appear before the board again, the second round of hearings started in early November with Yemeni Salman Yahya Hassan Mohammad Rabei'i, who arrived at Guantánamo aged just 22 in 2002 the first person to have a second hearing.
The review is also expected to rehear the case of the oldest prisoner at Guantánamo, 69-year old Pakistani Saifulla Paracha soon. His case was rejected in April and is now due for rehearing. Deemed a continuing threat at his last hearing, Paracha has diabetes and a heart condition.
Some of the second round reviews are full hearings where prisoners can address the board and others are case hearings where the documents used for the initial assessment are reviewed.
Other prisoners who have had a second round full review over the past month include Yemeni Yassin Qasem Muhammad Ismail, 36.
Yemeni Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi came before the board for a second time on 10 November

The US authorities are currently trying to have one Malaysian and one Indonesian prisoner sent to Malaysia. In the case of the Indonesian, Hambali, allegedly the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali bombings, his US lawyers are asking Australia to take him and try him for the case. The US cannot try him due to the extreme torture he has suffered following his 2003 kidnapping and in Malaysia he is unlikely to receive a fair trial and is likely to face the death penalty as well. Considered a dangerous terrorist, he has never been charged and any confessions he has made were under duress of torture.

Extraordinary rendition:
On 14 November, in its annual Preliminary Examination Report on Afghanistan, the International Criminal Court stated that the Office of The Prosecutor has determined that there are credible grounds to believe and investigate that war crimes have been committed in Afghanistan by the Taleban, Afghan intelligence authorities and the police, other government and independent militias and “US military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, principally in the 2003-2004 period, although allegedly continuing in some cases until 2014.” An investigation is likely into the crimes against humanity, including torture and ill-treatment committed by the parties.

Since 2009, Spain’s Supreme Court had been investigating torture claims brought against Bush-era officials by former Guantánamo prisoners under Spain’s universal jurisdiction laws, which allow crimes against humanity, such as torture, to be tried there even though they were not committed in the state due to their severity. Due to changes in the law restricting such claims the court finally ruled, following many appeals that it does not have the power to try such claims and closed the case. At the same time, Spain’s own complicity in Guantánamo continues as two former prisoners remain in jail there on dubious charges (and a conviction in one case) related to the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Documents revealed through a freedom of information lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union show that the US Federal Bureau of Prisons visited the CIA’s secret torture facilities in Afghanistan in 2002 at the expense of the US taxpayer, was aware of the torture there and tried to cover up the visit. Two employees were sent to the Afghan facilities and later praised these torture jails where prisoners were kept shackled to walls or the floor in complete darkness.

LGC Activities:
The November Shut Guantánamo demonstration was replaced by a special demonstration to coincide with the US presidential elections. The LGC was not surprised by the election of Donald Trump and will wait to see what policies he has with respect to Guantánamo as of January 2017. Barack Obama has failed to close Guantánamo and it is unlikely that any new president is likely to implement positive change in this respect. A report of the demonstration at which we were joined by around 30 people and had a number of speakers from other campaigns:

The last Shut Guantánamo! Demo of 2016 and under Barack Obama’s presidency is on Thursday 1 December at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy London and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch, Hyde Park:

The LGC (@shutguantanamo) is continuing to hold weekly #GitmObama Twitter storms to raise awareness about Guantánamo prisoners every Monday at 9pm BST. The pastebin is available which is updated weekly with the latest information and tweets to raise awareness about Guantánamo. Please join us online if you can!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Unfinished Business: 8 November, Demonstration to Mark US Presidential Election 2016 (Report)

In 2008 and 2012, on the day of the US presidential election, the London Guantánamo Campaign (LGC) held demonstrations outside the US Embassy in London to call for the closure of Guantánamo Bay and to raise awareness of issues of joint human rights concern for the UK and US such as the Extradition Act 2003. The protests held were not against the US election or any of the candidates at any point. The LGC has, over its 10-year history, held frequent demonstrations right outside the entrance of the US Embassy. Nonetheless this year, even before Donald Trump was elected, the US Embassy decided to contain peaceful human rights activists on the far corner of the US Embassy (opposite to where we usually and have previously gathered) away from where the public, and particularly those entering the embassy, could see them. The message was clear: in the new US political era, human rights will remain marginal, allocated to an unseen corner, if at all.
Maya Evans, VCNV UK
Around 30 people joined the protest. In spite of the small and peaceful nature of the protest, the embassy was cleared intimidated enough by its message to attempt to contain and marginalise it. The message itself was one of solidarity with political prisoners and the 60 men who remain at Guantánamo Bay after almost 15 years. 
Asif Uddin, Justice 4 Anis
Activists and campaigns who joined the demonstration included Maya Evans from Voice for Creative Non-Violence UK who spoke about the proliferation of US military bases around the world and particularly in Japan and a forgotten but central issue of this presidential campaign: the war in Afghanistan. Asif Uddin from the Justice 4 Anis campaign, for Anis Sardar, a British national serving a life sentence for the murder of a US soldier in Iraq in a highly unusual case, spoke about his plight; last week, Anis Sardar lost an appeal in his case. The Guantánamo Justice Campaign also spoke about the British government and Guantánamo.
David Allen from WISE Up for Chelsea Manning
Solidarity was also shown by Men’s Payday and WISE Up for Chelsea Manning with Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence for revealing some of the war crimes of the Bush administration; on the other hand, no Bush era officials have ever been prosecuted, let alone convicted and tortured as she has. Placed in solitary confinement in October for attempting suicide in jail, it has recently been revealed that she has attempted to commit suicide again while in solitary and is likely to be punished again for this. Calls have been made for Barack Obama to grant Manning clemency before he leaves office in January 2017.
Men are not the only victims of the war on terror: an exclusive statement was read out on behalf of Dr Fowzia Siddiqui, the sister of Dr Aafia Siddiqui who “disappeared” for 5 years in 2003 with her 3 young children. It is believed she was held at Bagram during that time. Her youngest child, aged 6 months when he “disappeared” has never been found. Dr Aafia Siddiqui is currently serving 86 years for assaulting US military staff and having a weapon in her possession:
It is an honor for me to address such a distinguished audience.
You are great people, people who give life and courage to people like us.
You are the courageous few who have the will to speak up against a wrong and help humanity regardless of who the perpetrator is.
It is the efforts of people like you that today Moazzam Baig, Binyam Mohamed, Agha Musavi, Aafia's babies Ahmed and Maryam and hundreds of other illegal detainees are safely with their families. But still there remains much to be done each release carrying its bitter sweet moments. Beautiful lives wasted in torture cells without any justification ever, not even remorse.
On behalf of Aafia's family I want to thank you for being here, thank you for showing you care, thank you for renewing our faith in humanity. One more year of grief, struggle and hope is passing by. A total of 13years of an ordeal so outrageous and overwhelming, that when asked to comment on how we as a family are coping, my first reaction was its 13 years too long, that says it all.
I don't have words to thank the organisers for the efforts that have been put in this initiative to raise their voice for those innocent souls who are left to die in the world’s most horrific torture chambers designed by a super power that claims to champion human rights.  I do not have the words to thank all of you who have gathered here to show that you care. Indeed you are the few that make history by helping an innocent soul and raising your voice. May Allah put his Barakat in this mobilisation and grant Aafia and all innocent detainees the freedom they deserve. Ameen.
Though my words fail me I know my Allah will not and I pray he showers his blessings on you all and reward you immensely. May Allah keep you safe happy and successful. Ameen.”
Noel Hamel from the LGC
The outcome of the US presidential election is irrelevant to the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. It is unlikely that Barack Obama will succeed in closing Guantánamo by the time he leaves office in January 2017 or that Donald Trump has plans to close Guantánamo. Human rights have been a non-issue in this presidential campaign. Nonetheless the London Guantánamo Campaign will continue to campaign for the release of the remaining 60 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.  
Thank you to everyone who joined us

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

8 November: Unfinished Business: Demonstration to Mark US Presidential Elections

When elected in 2008, Obama pledged to close Guantánamo, but Guantánamo remains business as usual. Prisoner releases slowed to a trickle, kangaroo 'justice' persists with indefinite detention without trial for many who remain. Force feeding, beatings and brutality continue. In the presidential campaign neither of the two main candidates has addressed this issue. Guantanamo’s closure is not imminent…

The London Guantánamo Campaign invites you to join us for a demonstration:

on the evening of the US presidential election,
Tuesday 8 November 2016
At 6-8pm
Outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London
with Open Mic

In addition, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner has continued the USA’s never-ending wars, continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and bombing Libya and Syria with its European allies, including Britain. President Obama has shown himself to be particularly fond of remote control deaths by drone strikes.

A number of human rights issues of joint UK-US concern also continue, such as the one-sided extradition treaty Britain made with the US in 2003.

If you represent an organisation that wishes to raise a human rights issue of joint UK-US interest at our demonstration, please get in touch. 
For more details, e-mail or contact 07809 757 176