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