Friday, July 29, 2016

LGC Newsletter – July 2016

Guantánamo Bay:
There are currently 76 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay. On 10 July, Yemeni prisoner Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman was resettled in Italy. He was cleared for release in 2010 but remained at Guantánamo as there was nowhere for him to go after Barack Obama placed a moratorium on returns to Yemen in 2010.
Around the same time, two prisoners – Yemeni Mansur Ahmad Saad al-Dayfi and Tajik Muhammadi Davliatov – were transferred for resettlement to Serbia. Al-Dayfi had also been cleared for release in 2010. Davliatov, who is stateless, was cleared for release in 2009. These are the first transfers to Serbia and come against a background of trade and diplomatic concessions in return for accepting the former Guantánamo prisoners.

Three prisoners had their cases reviewed by the prisoner review board in July to decide – through an arbitrary process – whether they can be cleared for release.
On 7 July, Pakistani Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani came before the board. He expressed regret at having worked alongside Al Qaeda as a cook and having helped Khalid Sheikh Mohammed accommodate and transport fighters. He did not deny any allegations made against him but said that he was unaware of the politics surrounding the situation at the time. His defence stated that his economic situation meant that working for Al Qaeda was a useful means of supporting his family at the time and that he had no ideological motivation.
On 14 July, Libyan Ismael Ali Faraj Ali Bakush, 48, who is alleged to have links to former terrorism organisations in Libya and to have used his explosives expertise to help Al Qaeda in Pakistan, had his hearing. He admitted having a minor role in the Libyan organisation but denied having any expertise with explosives. He expressed anger at the current government in Libya – which is currently engaged in warfare with various other groups in the country – but stated he did not intend to become involved in fighting again. No charges were ever brought against him.
On 21 July, Yemeni Omar Mohammed Ali Al-Rammah came before the board. He was detained in Georgia where he was fighting with the Chechens in 2001 before being rendered to the US military and torture facilities in Afghanistan before taken to Guantánamo. He was never charged. His counsel said he would like to work and get on with his life. He is not particularly interested in politics or religion and as a young man enjoyed football and dancing.

In addition, 7 prisoners learned the outcome of their hearings held in previous months: there are currently 32 prisoners cleared for release.
Abdul Latif Nasir, 51, the last Moroccan held at Guantánamo was cleared. Alleged to be a Taliban commander and weapons trainer he was never charged. He is to be returned to Morocco.
Yemeni Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, 34, who was described as a pleasant prisoner was cleared for release after his second hearing this year. A previous hearing in January deemed he was still too dangerous to release.
Best-selling author of the Guantánamo Diary and the last Mauritanian prisoner in Guantánamo was cleared for release on 20 July.
Afghan prisoner Abdul Zahir was cleared at around the same time. During his review hearing, it emerged that he was arrested by the US military in Afghanistan in a case of mistaken identity.
Yemeni Muhammed Raj ab Sadiq Abu Ghanim was also cleared for release  as was Russian Ravil Mingazov who has requested not to be returned to Russia, where he fears he will face further persecution and imprisonment as other returnees to Russia have faced. He has asked instead to be sent to the UK where his wife and children have been accepted as refugees.
At the same time, however, the board decides to continue the detention of several other prisoners, including Afghan Haroon Al-Afghani Algerian Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush  and Saudi Mohammed Al-Qahtani who is known to be schizophrenic and suffer from severe mental illness. The US military has admitted torturing him and charges against him were dropped due to the extreme torture he was subject to. Among the reasons given were that he refused to admit his alleged role in Al Qaeda. The US believes he was a potential 20th hijacker on 9/11 and not just a man with a long history of severe mental illness.
For most of the prisoners who have been cleared for release there is no guarantee they will be leaving Guantánamo any time soon.

Pre-trial hearings continued in two of the military commission cases. A hearing was held in the case of Al-Hadi Al-Iraqi, accused of leading attacks against the US and its allies in Afghanistan in 2002-2004. During the hearing, the case was set to be reconvened on 19 September. His lawyers asked for the proceedings to be frozen due to a lack of civilian defence lawyers in his case (as he is not facing the death penalty). Four volunteer civilian lawyers had joined his team, including Erwin Chemerinsky, constitutional law expert and dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine; however, none of them have yet received security clearance to attend the court or meet their client. His defence team asked the proceedings to be halted until they are able to do so. His defence wants to look at the issue of whether the US Constitution applies to the Guantánamo war court.
The Pentagon revealed that the only civilian prosecutor had abandoned the case.

Pre-trial hearings also continued progress at a snail’s pace in the case of five men accused of involvement in attacks on New York City in September 2001. The oral arguments centre on evidence that had been destroyed – approved by the judge – related to the secret detention and torture of the defendants by the CIA. During the hearing, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s lawyer David Nevin argued that the judge Col. James Pohl and the prosecution team should be disqualified for destroying evidence. The judge questioned whether he can disqualify himself.

Two former Guantánamo prisoners were sentenced by the Brussels Criminal Court on 18 July for involvement in an armed robbery, the proceeds of which were allegedly to be used to fund terrorist activity in Syria. The two men, Moussa Zemmouri, 38, a Belgian national, and Soufiane Abbar Huwari, 46, an Algerian national, were arrested in July 2015 with five others. Zemmouri, who was not actually involved in the burglary or charged with involvement in terrorist activity, was convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit the burglary. He was given a 40-month suspended sentence. The other man was accused of funding terrorism in Syria and being responsible for a criminal gang. He was sentenced to 12 years. Huwari was not identified until the case came to trial and he was described as being a threat by the prosecution, which raises questions as to why he was allowed to enter and live in Belgium in 2014 if the authorities deemed him to pose a threat to the safety of Belgians.

Extraordinary Rendition:
Authorities in the US have rejected a request by the police in Scotland to have access to the full unredacted CIA Torture Report, a small, censored part of which was published in December 2014. The request was made over 18 months as part of an ongoing criminal investigation in Scotland into a number of rendition flights into and out of Scottish airports. At least 6 flights are currently being examined.

LGC Activities:
The July Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 7 July. The August demonstration is on 4 August at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch:

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!