The London Guantánamo has been campaigning since 2006 for the return of all British residents from the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, the release of all prisoners, the closure of this prison and other similar prisons and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition. Human rights for all.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
LGC Newsletter – June 2016
There are currently 79 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay after one Yemeni
prisoner was transferred to Montenegro on 22 June. Abdel
Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al-Rahabi, 36, arrived at Guantánamo on 11 January
2002. Accused of having once served as a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden, as a
very large number of other Guantánamo prisoners have been, he
was never charged or tried for any offences.
Pre-trial hearings into the alleged involvement of 5 Guantánamo Bay
prisoners in the attacks in New York on 11 September 2001 continued this month.
As part of consideration of the conditions in which the defendants are being
held in and the torture they claim to have suffered at Guantánamo, two other
prisoners, who are not facing charges, were called to give evidence in the case. Somali
prisoner Hassan Guleed told the court of the torture he
has been subject to in the secret camp (Camp 7) he and the defendants are held
in. He echoed their claims of sleep deprivation and that there are deliberate
noises and vibrations in the camp as well as strange chemical smells used to pressurize
the prisoners. He called it “mental torture”.
Abu Zubaydah, who has not been seen other
than by his CIA and military torturers and captors since 2002, was also
supposed to give evidence. He allegedly came to the door but was turned back
and the hearing set for another date as the lawyers asked for an adjournment when Abu Zubaydah’s lawyer objected to the incriminating questions put to Guleed. The prosecution lawyer asked questions about
Guleed’s involvement with terrorist organisations in East Africa even though he
had no legal representation, was not on trial or facing one and the
questions were not relevant to his testimony in court. The two men were asked
to testify by the defence lawyers of one of the 5 defendants to show that the
conditions under which they are held make it difficult for them to contribute
effectively to the proceedings.
At the same hearing the next day, a former prison commander claimed that
Guleed’s claims were not true and that the prisoners had not been tormented by
guards or subject to torture. Instead, he said that Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh, who had
made the accusations of noise and sleep deprivation and asked other prisoners
to testify, had made over 90% of complaints in Camp 7 when he was in charge
there. When asked why these complaints were not investigated, he said they were
not considered credible.
Lawyers for Al-Shibh also requested that the UN Special Rapporteur on
Torture Juan Mendez be granted permission to come and inspect the camp
conditions for himself. He was invited to join a media tour of Guantánamo in
2012 but refused as he would not have full access to prisoners and facilities. The
lawyer made an application for him to visit and be given fuller access in May.
Lawyers for the men have said that Mendez may accept just to be given access to
Camp 7 where the defendants and other high value prisoners like Abu Zubaydah
and Ahmed Guleed are held.
Nine prisoners had their status reviewed to consider whether they can be
cleared for release by the periodic review board, bringing the number of
prisoners who have had their cases reviewed to 50 in total.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the last Mauritanian prisoner and best-selling
author of Guantanamo Diary had
his hearing on 2 June. His counsel stated that if released he would want to
return to his family in Mauritania, start a business, and promote his book if
he is allowed to travel. Ould Slahi has been described as a compliant prisoner and
even a former prisoner guard wrote a letter in support of his release. Representatives
from the Mauritanian Embassy attended with the media at the unclassified parts
of the hearing.
On 7 June, Moroccan prisoner Abdul Latif Nasir had his review hearing.
The US military simultaneously alleges that he was a seasoned fighter for
various extremist groups and a member of a non-violent mystical Islamic group
in Morocco focusing on spiritualism. Nasir was not captured but purchased for a
bounty by the US military which was vague about how he was captured and the
dates and locations of the many places he is alleged to have fought in. Nasir
wants to return to Morocco and would get work through his family there.
Another Afghan prisoner, Haroon Al-Afghani,
held at Guantánamo since June 2007 had his hearing on 14 June. The US military
claims that he worked with various militant groups and the Taliban in
Afghanistan and even launched attacks on the US and its allies but has never
Saudi prisoner Mohammed Al-Qahtani, whom the US has admitted torturing, “including severe sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, violence and
other sadistic interrogation methods carried out for weeks,” had his hearing on
16 June. Having tried to enter the US in August 2001, the United States alleged
he was the 20th bomber for the September 2001 attacks. His lawyers,
however, painted a picture of a man with severe mental health issues, going
back to his childhood, which have been greatly worsened. Charges brought against him
early on were dropped when it was realised that all the evidence came from the
torture he had been subject to. His lawyers argued for him to be sent home to
Saudi Arabia where he can receive adequate care for his psychiatric issues. In a
statement, they said, “Filings made before the Periodic
Review Board disclose, for the first time, that from an early age al Qahtani
suffered from schizophrenia, major depression, and possible traumatic brain
injury. He was mentally ill not only prior to his imprisonment and torture at
Guantánamo, but also long before the government claims he was invited into the
secretive, closely-guarded 9/11 conspiracy. Records independently located by
the Center for Constitutional Rights show that al Qahtani was involuntarily
committed to a mental hospital in Mecca in May 2000 because he suffered an
acute psychotic break and attempted to throw himself into moving traffic. Saudi
police once found him naked in a garbage dumpster, and he heard voices and
suffered other classic symptoms of psychosis throughout his adolescence. A
psychiatric expert’s report, based on the hospitalization records, other
investigative work, and many hours of examination of al Qahtani, was filed with
the Review Board as well.”
Russian prisoner Ravil Mingazov had his hearing on 21 June. While the US
presented him as having military training from Russia and having been involved
with Islamist groups in Tajikistan, his lawyers explained he had a non-combat
role (and was not trained) in the army and was trying to seek asylum in
Tajikistan. He does not wish to return to Russia where his family has been
persecuted and hopes to come instead to the UK where his wife and children have
successfully sought asylum.
Ghassan Abdullah Al-Sharbi, a Saudi prisoner who is a qualified engineer
from the US and Saudi Arabia, had his hearing on 23 June. He has been
non-compliant and chose not to attend and did not meet with his representative.
Yemeni Musab Omar Ali Al-Mudwani, 36, had his
review hearing on 28 June. Described as a low-level militant and compliant
prisoner, he would ideally like to return to Yemen which is currently barred by
the US administration.
Yemeni prisoner Hail Aziz Ahmed Al-Maythali had
his hearing on 30 June.
In addition, four prisoners who have
already had reviews learned the outcome in June: only one, Afghan Karim Bostan,
46, was cleared for release. Three other prisoners – 2 Yemenis and a Kenyan –
were deemed to remain too dangerous to release by the arbitrary administrative
board whose decisions are not based on law.
Former Guantánamo prisoners Belgian Moussa
Zemmouri and Algerian Soufian Abar Huwari went on trial for a week in Brussels
from 13 June on alleged terrorism charges related to a burglary in Antwerp, the
proceeds of which the Belgian authorities claim would have gone to fund
terrorism in Syria. Neither man was charged at Guantánamo or had been until
their arrest in Belgium last year.
In Spain, following his arrest in 2014, for allegedly running a terrorist
cell linked to the war in Syria, former prisoner Lahcen
Ikassrien went on trial on 20 June along with others who are co-accused. Due to
his Guantánamo imprisonment and as the alleged ringleader, the Spanish
prosecutor asked for a longer sentence for him. He was never charged at Guantánamo
and did not come to the attention of the authorities after his 2005 release
until his arrest. However, shortly before his 2014 arrest, Spanish prosecutors
said they would be willing to start a case into the torture he and other former
prisoners claim they suffered in US detention.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced
that following its 4-year investigation it will not be pressing criminal
charges against officials, including former foreign secretary Jack Straw, for
British collusion in the rendition to torture of Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim
Belhaj and his wife, who was pregnant at the time, from Southeast Asia to Libya
in 2004. There will be no prosecutions in the case.
Following this decision, the matter was discussed
in parliament – concerning what the intelligence services knew and disclosed –
on 29 June and a call by a number of human rights organisations to hold a
judge-led inquiry into the UK’s involvement in extraordinary rendition and CIA
torture was dismissed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
On 8 June, the European Parliament passed a
new non-binding resolution calling on Member States to investigate their role
in extraordinary rendition and more the Parliament to conduct more fact-finding
Sabrina de Sousa, a former CIA agent
convicted in absentia by an Italian court along with colleagues for her role in
the 2003 rendition of Milan-based cleric Abu Omar lost her fight against extradition
from Portugal to Italy after the Portuguese Supreme Court rejected her claims. It
is likely that she will have to go to Italy to hear her sentence but that she
will be able to serve it in Portugal. She claims she was only an interpreter
and had nothing to do with the torture Abu Omar has faced. Although she did not
ask him, he has asked the Italian authorities to pardon her. She asked Hilary
Clinton for help but that was not given. It is the only case anywhere in the
world where CIA agents have been found guilty of torture under the
extraordinary rendition programme. Facilitating torture is also a crime against
humanity and a war crime.
In response to a freedom of information
filing made by the American Civil Liberties Union, the CIA has released 50 new
documents that shed considerable light on the extraordinary rendition
programme. The full documents can be viewed through a link at:
Guantánamo prisoner Mustafa Al-Hawsawi who
claimed he was held at a secret CIA-run prison in Lithuania has had “victim
status” denied which would grant him greater protection and more access to
information as part of an ongoing investigation. The Lithuanian authorities
claim there is no proof that any such torture facility was run in the country
but will not allow a full and impartial investigation to go ahead at the same
On 29 June, two cases were heard at the
European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against Lithuania (brought by Abu
Zubaydah) and Romania (brought by Abd Al-Nashiri) for the torture they suffered at
secret CIA-run facilities in these states. Lawyers for Al-Nashiri told the
court that the CIA had paid Romania millions of dollars to run such facilities.
The Lithuanian government remains in denial about its role.
The June Shut
Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 2 June. As it coincided with the
periodic review board hearing of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a special “Free Slahi”
demo was held outside the US Embassy with readings from Guantánamo Diary.
A similar but much larger protest was held outside the US Embassy in Mauritania
on the same day. The July demonstration is on 7 July at 12-1pm outside the US
Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble
The LGC marked UN International Day in
Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June with a special “Borders of Torture”
solidarity vigil in Trafalgar Square focusing on the refugee crisis. Many
refugees are survivors of torture. This year's theme was “support life after
torture” and so activists from the LGC put together a clothesline with “bloody”
t-shirts and a banner stating “Don’t hang torture survivors out to dry”. Read
our report here:
(@shutguantanamo) is continuing to hold weekly #GitmObama Twitter storms to
raise awareness about Guantánamo prisoners every Monday at 9pm BST. The pastebin
is available http://pastebin.com/zpx5F7ab
which is updated weekly with the latest information and tweets to raise
awareness about Guantánamo. Please join us online if you can!