Tuesday, August 30, 2016

LGC Newsletter – August 2016

Guantánamo Bay:
There are currently 61 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, of whom 21 have been cleared for release. On 14 August, Barack Obama made the single largest transfer of his presidency when he sent 15 prisoners – 12 Yemenis and 3 Afghans – to the UAE to be settled there. None of the men had ever stood trial at Guantánamo; all are now effectively refugees. At least half of the Yemenis had been cleared for release for over 7 years and could have been released at any point during his presidency. However, no Yemenis have been returned to Yemen since 2009 and coupled with the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, the Afghan government has made no effort to demand the return of its remaining citizens held at Guantánamo. The last repatriation to that country was made in 2014.
Although the men and their families are pleased about the releases, the conditions in the UAE, which agreed to settle 5 other prisoners who could not return to their own countries in November 2015, involve a large number of restrictions. These include:
  • A 24-hour surveillance of detainees for an extended period of time.
  • The detainees accept that their movement within the UAE will be restricted to certain geographical areas and that they will not travel outside the country, at least for a certain period.
  • The detainees must voluntarily accept a surveillance of their phones, internet and personal communication.
  • The detainees must voluntarily accept to undergo a rehabilitation program to lead a normal law-abiding life in the future.http://newsweekme.com/guantanamo-the-outcasts/
    Although the media praised the move as proof of Obama’s determination to close Guantánamo before he leaves office, having reduced the prisoner population by one-fifth in one day, it should be remembered that most of these men could have been released far earlier and there are about 15 prisoners who are unlikely to ever be released and thus even if the physical prison at Guantánamo closes, the perpetual indefinite detention of up to 20 prisoners is likely to continue.

Eight prisoners had their cases reviewed by the administrative periodic review board in August. The arbitrary system applied by the board considers whether or not prisoners are believed to continue to pose a threat to the USA and its interests or can be released. It does not consider the legality of their imprisonment. Being cleared by the board does not guarantee release.
On 2 August, high-value Somali prisoner Guleed Hassan Ahmed, 42, who has no legal representation, had his review. He was kidnapped and rendered by the CIA in 2004; he arrived at Guantánamo two years later in 2006. Two anonymous military representatives who have known him for a short while spoke on his behalf.
The US military accused him of links to Al Qaeda and other militant groups in East Africa; his connections to the latter appear to have been non-violent as the groups he has admitted to having ties with were not militant at the time the CIA accused him of working with them. His representatives stated he has no ill will to the US and simply wants to be reunited with his wife and four children who live in Canada.
Another high-value prisoner, Afghan Muhammad Rahim, 51, had his hearing on 5 August. Rahim was arrested in Pakistan in 2007 and was the last person to enter the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme. His torture before he arrived at Guantánamo included “attention grasps, facial holds, abdominal slaps, dietary manipulation consisting almost exclusively of water and liquid Ensure meals, and eight extensive sleep deprivation sessions”, the longest lasting 138.5 hours. The US claims he is a terrorist but he claims that any work he did for Al Qaeda was simply done for money and he now regrets his actions.
Two Malaysian nationals held at Guantánamo had their review board hearings on 9 and 11 August. Mohd Farik bin Amin was first. He was kidnapped by the CIA in Thailand in 2003 with other prisoners. Following years of torture in CIA secret prisons, he arrived at Guantánamo in 2006 with the other Malaysian national and Indonesian prisoner Hambali. The US claims he went to Afghanistan in 2000 for training in an Al Qaeda-run camp. Although all three are high-value prisoners none have ever been charged. He has been one of the most compliant prisoners at Guantánamo and is reported to want to just go home. Malaysian embassy representatives attended the hearing but the Malaysian press has reported that the country does not want its two prisoners returned. This may be due to the role the Malaysian government played in providing intelligence for their capture.
Mohammed Bashir bin Lap, also known as "Lillie”, had his hearing on 11 August with similar claims made against him. He too simply wishes to return home and start a family.
The third of the Southeast Asian trio Indonesian Hambali (real name Encep Nurjaman), 52, had his review board hearing on 18 August. He is accused of being an Al Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia and part of the gang that carried out deadly bombings in Bali in 2002.  Malaysia has asked for him not to be returned to Indonesia and the Indonesian government has already said that it does not want him to return home.
Libyan high-profile prisoner Mustafa Faraj Muhammad Masud al-Jadid al-Uzaybi , 45, had his hearing on 16 August. He expressed an intention to return home to his family in Libya and his representatives said that his medical condition would make it impossible for him to engage in any military action if released. He is reported to be a compliant prisoner.
Haji Wali Muhammed, 50, an Afghan national, had his review board hearing on 25 August. A money changer who ran a small business in Afghanistan, he is reported to have made transactions with various militant groups but is not known to have any terrorist links himself. He arrived at Guantánamo in May 2002 and has been a highly compliant prisoner.
The most important review board hearing took place on 23 August, that of Zayn al-Ibidin Muhammed Husayn, a stateless Palestinian also known as Abu Zubaydah. At the hearing he was briefly seen for the first time since 2002. Severely tortured by the CIA following his kidnap in 2002 over three continents – for which he has so far successfully sued Poland – including having been waterboarded 83 times in one month, the US later conceded, after severe torture that has seen him lose his left eye, that it had the wrong man and that he is not a terrorist or a threat. Nonetheless, these very same claims that the US military has now admitted were not true and reflect a lack of intelligence were used by the US military to defend his continued detention; the US had conceded as early as 2006 that they had the wrong man. He had been used a guinea pig for CIA torture methods. No mention was made of his torture during the hearing. Given what Abu Zubaydah knows about the US’ torture methods, his release, and that of the other high-value prisoners who had hearings this month, is unlikely.

In August, five prisoners had decisions made following their review hearings: the board cleared Yemeni Hail Aziz Ahmed Al-Maythali, 39, for release and recommended he is sent to an Arabic-speaking country in the Gulf region, as he cannot return home, and Algerian Sufyian Barhoumi, 43. On the other hand, it decided to continue the detention of Abdul Rabbani Abu Rahmah, 49, a Pakistani citizen born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Libyan Ismael Ali Faraj Ali Bakush who did not participate in his hearing and Omar Mohammed Ali Al-Rammah, 40, a Yemeni citizen.

Ahead of his scheduled hearing next month, Pakistani media has reported that the US has decided to release Pakistani prisoner Ahmed Rabbani due to a lack of evidence against him. Having grown up in Saudi Arabia and fluent in Arabic, he was mistaken for an Arab when he was arrested in Pakistan.

A US appeal court rejected an appeal by Abd Al-Nashiri to have his case halted as his lawyers claim that he is being charged with war crimes even though his acts did not take place within the context of war as the US was not engaged in hostilities with Al Qaeda at the time that the attacks he is linked to took place in the Gulf of Aden in 2000. Instead the court ruled that the war court has the jurisdiction to hear his case and that he can appeal this point after the case is heard. His lawyers tried to have this point expedited in view of the torture he suffered in the four years during which he “disappeared” into CIA secret prisons between 2002 and 2006.
Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian refugee who was released without charge from Guantánamo to Uruguay in December 2014 allegedly briefly disappeared for a few weeks from mid-June. In early August, it was discovered that he was in Venezuela, which he had entered illegally. This was discovered when he went to the Uruguayan embassy to ask for help to go to Turkey or another country where he can be reunited with his wife and children who are stuck in war-torn Syria. The request was refused and the Venezuelan authorities arrested and detained him without charge and held him incommunicado. His US lawyer and others were not allowed to communicate with him. In mid-August, he went on hunger strike in protest, having effectively ended up in the same conditions as he was being held in at Guantánamo. On 30 August he was deported back to Uruguay where he was subject to medical and psychological tests before being sent home. The Uruguayan government said that his family will be reunited with him in Uruguay but the authorities there have been promising this since he was release over 20 months ago.

Extraordinary Rendition:
The extradition of former CIA agent Sabrina de Sousa to serve her sentence in Italy for her role in the 2003 kidnapping and rendition to torture of Egyptian-born Imam Abu Omar in Milan has been temporarily halted. The extradition which was supposed to take place by 18 June after she lost her case against extradition at the Portuguese Supreme Court was stayed after the Italian court said that its decision was final and that there would be no retrial or appeal. It may now be possible for her to make a further appeal before the Portuguese courts on this basis. She was originally sentenced to 7 years and the sentence was later reduced to 4 years.

Two CIA-contracted psychologists, James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, accused of devising the torture methods used by the CIA as part of its extraordinary rendition programme are suing the CIA for disclosure of documents that they claim will prove they did not design and implement the torture methods a number of victims are now suing them for in the US courts. The two men failed to claim immunity and have the case thrown out. The CIA is refusing to give these documents to the men, claiming their request is vague, and has instead suggested it could offer an anonymous witness to provide information, which the men have rejected. With the CIA refusing to provide the evidence, this may mean that the case will be thrown out, as when one of the parties is unable to make sufficient disclosure to make their case, the case is usually not allowed to proceed.

LGC Activities:
The August Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 4 August. The September demonstration is on 1 September at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch: https://www.facebook.com/events/1655387634779089/

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 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!