Sunday, January 31, 2016

LGC Newsletter – January 2016

Guantánamo Bay:
The extralegal US-run prison camp at Guantánamo Bay has now been open longer under the administration of Barack Obama than it was under George Bush. 
Over January, 16 prisoners have been released – the largest number of transfers in one month under Obama – bringing the number of remaining prisoners to 91. As always, not all of the transfers have gone smoothly. The first transfers were on 6 January, of two Saudi-born Yemeni prisoners: Khalid al Dhuby, 34, who was cleared for release in 2006, and Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef, 36, who was cleared for release in 2009. As part of the deal, in return for US aid and cover by the US of their costs, Ghana agreed to take the two prisoners, and former Rwandan prisoners. The agreement is for two years and Ghanaian media has reported that the men have refugee status for that time. However, their move to the country has not been welcomed in many quarters.
The next prisoner to be released on 8 January was Fayiz Al-Kandari, the last Kuwaiti prisoner held at Guantánamo, who was cleared for release by the prisoner review board in 2015. He will have to undergo a rehabilitation programme before going home, but has been reunited with his family and other former prisoners.
Saudi prisoner, Muhammed Abd Al Rahman Awn Al-Shamran, who was also cleared by the prisoner review board last year, was released home on the fourteenth anniversary of Guantánamo opening, 11 January.
A few days later, 10 Yemenis were sent to Oman, which has agreed to settle them until the situation in Yemen is safe enough for them to return home.
On this same day, Barack Obama's plan to close Guantánamo was submitted to Congress. It has yet to be made public but is likely to involve transferring some prisoners to US mainland prison facilities and effectively continuing indefinite detention without charge. Nonetheless, it has been reported that his plans for transfer to the US mainland, which has been blocked for many years by Congress, and could take place through the use of executive action, may be illegal.
The last releases of January were on the 21st when Egyptian prisoner Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed Al Sawah was sent to Bosnia and Yemeni prisoner Abdul Aziz al-Swidi was sent to Montenegro. A third prisoner, Yemeni Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir, refused to leave Guantánamo at the last minute if he was not going to be reunited with his family and would be sent to a country he does not know. His lawyer said that he is fearful of what will happen there. The country was not identified.
34 of the remaining prisoners are cleared for release and no schedule has been set for when there are likely to be any more transfers, either to home or third countries.

Two more prisoners have been cleared for release by the prisoner review board in January: Yemeni Zahir Hamdoun, 36, was the first to be cleared.
This was followed by the clearance of his compatriot Mustafa Abd al-Qawi Abd al-Aziz al-Shamiri, 37, who is reported to have been held for so long due to a case of mistaken identity. At his board hearing in December, allegations of him being a senior Al-Qaeda trainer were dismissed. This does not, however, explain why he was held for so long or continues to be held. His lawyers have said that he will go to any country that accepts him.
Three prisoners have come before the review board in January: Yemenis Majid Mahmud Adbu Ahmed and Yassim Qasim Mohammed Ismail Qasim, and Afghan Haji Hamidullah.

Former Guantánamo prisoner Younis Chekkouri, who was released home to Morocco in September 2015 where he has since been held in prison without charge, was due to have a hearing on 6 January. This hearing was put back to 26 January, and in a fourth delay, without any charges having been brought against Chekkouri, the judge has now put the hearing back to 9 February. His Moroccan lawyer claims that the accusations against him do not fall under Moroccan anti-terrorism laws.
On 29 January, former prisoner Omar Khadr had his bail conditions in Canada reduced to allow him to stay out past his midnight curfew for work or educational purposes, as he studies to become an emergency medical responder. Further issues will be discussed at a hearing next month. Khadr was released on bail in May 2015 as he appeals his military tribunal conviction in the US. The new Canadian government has been asked to drop an appeal against his bail status but it has not yet responded.

Since late December, new rules for psychologists from the American Psychological Association (APA) mean that they can no longer treat prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, only soldiers. This has meant that psychologists have been withdrawn from a large number of activities involving prisoners at the prison. However, the Pentagon has since asked for the use of psychologists to be reinstated and the rules to be relaxed.

Extraordinary Rendition:
Former British citizen Mahdi Hashi, a victim of extraordinary rendition, after he was kidnapped in Djibouti in 2012, who claims that he was tortured and abused with British and US knowledge when he “disappeared” before resurfacing months later in FBI custody, was sentenced to 9 years by a New York court on 29 January on charges of supporting the Al Shabaab militia group in Somalia, where he was born. Following his “disappearance”, he was stripped of his British nationality and an appeal is still pending before the UK courts.

LGC Activities:
The LGC marked the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay in 2002 with a candlelight vigil – “History in the Making” – outside the US Embassy. More than 100 people joined the action on a cold evening and demonstrators were joined by a number of former British national and resident prisoners, including Shaker Aamer and Moazzam Begg who spoke on the open mic. The names of the remaining 103 prisoners at the time were read out and other prisoner campaigners spoke as well and joined the demonstration. A full report can be read at: 

The February Shut Guantánamo demonstration is on Thursday 4 February at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park (opposite Marble Arch). As well as being the first monthly demo of 2016, this event also marks the ninth anniversary of our regular demonstrations outside the US Embassy, calling for Guantánamo to close and in solidarity with the prisoners. Please join us if you can. For more details:

The LGC (@shutguantanamo) is continuing to hold weekly #GitmObama Twitter storms to raise awareness about Guantánamo prisoners every Monday at 9pm GMT. A special Twitter storm was held on the 14th anniversary. A 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!

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the London Guantánamo Campaign! We’ve been busy in that time, campaigning for 8 British residents, other Guantánamo prisoners, against torture and other prisons in the so-called war on terror, and supporting other prisoner campaigns. You can read about our early days and unique campaigning methods here – the history of the LGC during the Bush years A further history of the LGC, under Obama will be available in March, when the LGC officially turns 10!

Monday, January 18, 2016

History in the Making: 14 years of Guantánamo Bay

As we have done every year since 2008, the London Guantánamo Campaign organised the main UK event to mark the anniversary of the opening of the US military-run Guantánamo Bay prison camp. As in recent years, it was one of the largest events worldwide, with possibly only a larger protest coordinated by a coalition of US organisations outside the White House in Washington DC. More than 100 people joined the London Guantánamo Campaign (LGC) on a very cold evening for a candlelight vigil, demonstrating the commitment to human rights of the British people and the desire to see Guantánamo closed even after all the British nationals and residents have returned.

Shaker Aamer lights candles at the candlelight vigil
Former prisoner Moazzam Begg
This year’s event, on the evening of Monday 11th January, entitled “History in the Making”, had a sense of urgency to it: as Guantánamo Bay enters the fifteenth year of its regime of torture and indefinite detention without trial, Barack Obama enters the final year of his second term as president of the United States. It is now six years since he promised to close Guantánamo by January 2010, in an executive decree he signed in one of his first acts as president. With less than one year left to go of his presidency, questions have been raised as to whether he can and will deliver on his many promises to close Guantánamo Bay.

Although there was good news on the day with the repatriation of Saudi Mohammad Abdul Rahman al Shumrani, one of 17 prisoners due to be released this month, the LGC is particularly concerned about the fate of those prisoners who, after 14 years, have not been cleared for release and have not been charged, as expressed in our media release. Obama’s plan appears to be not to close Guantánamo and end indefinite detention but to close the facility and transfer the remaining prisoners elsewhere. The LGC’s rejection of this proposal was made clear on our main banner for the protest: “Shut Guantanamo – Don’t Move It”.
The LGC is pleased to have been joined by a number of former British nationals and residents who were previously held at Guantánamo Bay. With the exception of Shaker Aamer, released in October 2015, all have joined LGC events in the past, but we have not pointed them out in the past, and did not point them out on this occasion, out of respect for their privacy. Former prisoners Moazzam Begg, who was released in 2005, and Shaker Aamer, in his first unmediated address to the public (video below), spoke at the vigil. It was an honour for the LGC to have these two former prisoners share their feelings and views on the 14th anniversary of Guantánamo with us, and to join us in standing in solidarity with the remaining prisoners.

Jean Lambert MEP
As an open mic event, there were no scheduled speakers. Contributions were also made by Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, Sheikh Suliman Gani from Tooting Mosque, Lindsey German from the Stop The War Coalition, American peace activist Paul Polansky, John Clossick and Ray Silk from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, and campaigners Hamja Ahsan, Peter Tatchell and Dr David Nichol. The event was compered by David Harrold from the LGC and Val Brown from the LGC also spoke about the case of Omar Khadr. 

The LGC was also joined by other prisoner support campaigns, including for Chelsea Manning, and a contribution was also made at the mic by the daughter of Munir Farooqi, a British man currently serving 4 life sentences for terrorism after being set up by undercover police officers. 

Other prisoners whose cases the LGC supports were mentioned, including Dr Aafia Siddiqui and Shawki Ahmed Omar. CND director Kate Hudson gave her apologies for not being able to join activists. Statements were also read out on behalf of Guantánamo lawyers Barry Wingard, whose client Fayiz Al-Kandari returned to Kuwait on 9 January, and Nancy Hollander, who provided a statement about her client, Guantánamo Diary author Mohamedou Ould Slahi (please see below).

As well as an open mic, Sheikh Suliman Gani led activists in reading out the names of the remaining 103 prisoners (there are currently 93) and calls for each of them to be set free. 

The London Guantánamo Campaign will be back outside the US Embassy on 4 February at 12pm for our first monthly Shut Guantánamo! demonstration of 2016, and the 9th anniversary of our regular protests demanding that Guantánamo closes, outside the Embassy.

Bernard Sullivan, who joined the anniversary vigil for the first time this year, spoke at the vigil and later shared his thoughts about it:

"Jottings on a Guantanamo Vigil"
I met Shaker Aamer today, and between his media interviews and speeches to the gathering outside the US embassy marking the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, had the opportunity to speak with him. I found an exceptional character, open, friendly, charismatic, and a motivational orator, who expressed a strong belief in one human race, without distinction of colour, religion or race. A living example of how the human spirit can not only survive the terrible ordeal that he was put through, but can grow enormously from it. He was overwhelmed by the fact that while incarcerated for years with nothing to do but sit in his 6 x 8 cell, many outside with jobs, families, children and many other responsibilities, had given up years of their time to campaign for him and his fellow detainees.
As an active supporter for the closure of Guantanamo of a mere three months standing, I found myself in awe of those around me, but determined to stand with them until the human rights hypocrisy that is Guantanamo is closed for good, and the many innocents held within, are truly free.
Only then, can the USA and its supporting allies begin to emerge from this darkest shadow of their own making, and try to restore the catastrophic loss of trust of countless people around the globe.”
The LGC thanks everyone who joined us and stood with us in solidarity with the prisoners still held at Guantánamo Bay.

Statement by Barry Wingard about his client Fayiz Al-Kandari who was released to Kuwait on Saturday 9 January:

“It has been a long fourteen year road to show that the United States Government had no actual evidence against Fayiz.

It should really come as no surprise, of the 779 men held in Cuba's most notorious prison, fewer than 15 will be given a kangaroo proceeding in the military commissions.  Almost all the guys getting trial "like" proceedings were brought to GTMO from CIA torture sites in 2006 to "scare up the place."

I look forward to seeing Fayiz and his family back in Kuwait where he should have been for the last fourteen years of his life.  I know Fayiz is too smart to hold a grudge as he would say "being angry at others gives them power over you, be strong and ignore those who seek to do you harm.  In that way you show you are stronger than them."
Well Fayiz, time to get on with the rest of our lives as we have both been freed from GTMO.  Time to find your wife and start your family my friend.  Let me be the first to welcome you back.”

Statement by Nancy Hollander about her client Mohamedou Ould Slahi, best-selling author, the last Mauritanian in Guantánamo and extraordinary rendition victim, who has yet to be cleared for release:

“I speak to you on behalf of Mohamedou Ould Slahi. I know he would want to thank everyone for your commitment to demand that Guantanamo be closed, that everyone who is not being prosecuted be sent home or to a third country and that that those facing prosecution be tried in a regular United States court with all the constitutional protections that apply to every person---citizen and alien---who is charged with crimes against the United States. Closing Guantanamo means closing it forever, not moving it to another location. Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been incarcerated by the United States for fourteen years. He is an innocent man who has never been charged with any crime. Although he was tortured, he remains unbroken. His dignity, humor and humanity are available for all to see in his memoir, Guantanamo Diary, now available in 21 countries and 19 languages. We will not cease our efforts until he is free. ”

Sheikh Suliman Gani with Shaker Aamer

Further media of this event:

Monday, January 11, 2016

History in the Making: Vigil to mark 14 years of Guantánamo, 6-8pm, 11 January 2016

Join us on 11 January 2016 for your last opportunity to send a strong message to Barack Obama to close Guantánamo on the anniversary of its opening!

MEDIA RELEASE: History in the Making: London Guantánamo Campaign to Mark Fourteenth Anniversary of Guantánamo Bay with Candlelight Vigil outside US Embassy, Monday 11 January 2016, 6-8pm

For immediate release: Monday 11 January 2016

The London Guantánamo Campaign [1] and human rights activists will gather for a candlelight vigil, History in the Making [2], outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London, from 6-8pm, to mark the 14th anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.

Activists will stand outside the US Embassy holding up letters spelling out: “Close Guantánamo” and will hold a candlelight vigil calling for Barack Obama to fulfil his promise to close the prison camp during his last year in office. 

Aisha Maniar, organiser from the London Guantánamo Campaign, says, "When Barack Obama became US president in 2009, he promised to close Guantánamo within one year. Now, with one year left of his term in office, there are still over 100 prisoners. Almost all are held without charge or trial after 14 years.

“While recent prisoner releases are welcome, most of these have been subject to inexplicable delay. This includes the release of British resident Shaker Aamer more than 8 years after he was cleared and the British Prime Minister sought his return.

“Obama no longer plans to end indefinite arbitrary detention for the remaining prisoners, and his plan to close Guantánamo merely involves displacing this extralegal regime, moving the prisoners elsewhere. This is extremely disappointing from a man who once made closing Guantánamo and restoring the rule of law one of his main pledges if he became president. None can be as disappointed as the remaining prisoners, who still have no guarantees they will ever be released or even know why they are held.” 



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.  

Since 2008, the London Guantánamo Campaign has each year been the sole organiser of the UK protest to mark the anniversary of Guantánamo Bay opening on 11 January 2002. The London Guantánamo Campaign has had no communication with We Stand With Shaker or Cage concerning the reported organisation of other events outside the US Embassy and is not liable for them. The annual protest is a public event and all are welcome.