Friday, June 30, 2017
LGC Newsletter – June 2017
Lawyers for Guantánamo forever prison Abu Zubaydah have brought a lawsuit against James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen for the torture he faced while held at secret CIA prison in Poland from December 2002 to September 2003. The two men, currently also facing a lawsuit on behalf of other torture victims by the ACLU, were private contractors and psychologists who ran a company that made over $81 million devising and carrying out torture programmes for the CIA. “The lawsuit says James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, because of their role in the interrogation program and their presence at the site, have information relevant to the investigation being carried out by the Organized Crimes Division of the Regional Public Prosecutor’s Office in Krakow, Poland. They are investigating whether Polish officials facilitated the existence or operation of the CIA black site”. The information they are being asked to hand over has been requested by the Polish authorities to help with their investigations.
In January 2016, the US sent two Yemeni prisoners, who were held without charge or trial, to resettle in Ghana. Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef and Khalid al Dhuby have since then struggled to settle in the country, where they are not allowed to work and have been subject to media scrutiny of their lives there. Both men were cleared for release in 2009 but could not leave Guantánamo for a further 7 years because of the ban on transfers to Yemen imposed by Barack Obama in 2010. At the time, the government of Ghana said the men could stay for two years. Theirs were the first transfers of prisoners to West Africa. Shortly after their arrival, several Christian organisations protested their presence in the country, including the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference and the Christian Council of Ghana. Two Ghanaian citizens then brought a court case against the government to challenge the legality of their presence in the country. On Thursday 22 June, the Ghanaian Supreme Court ruled that the men had been admitted unlawfully to the country and gave the government three months to legalise their status. The government has since stated that it is seeking to do this so the men can remain there. Given the ongoing war in Yemen, it is impossible to return them to their country of origin and the US is unlikely to accept them. Yemen is one of the countries subject to Trump’s immigration ban. One of the men, Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef, is reported to have recently gotten married. His lawyer George Clarke told Ghanaian media that his client is being used as a “political football” in view of the fact of recent regime changes in both Ghana and the US and the two men are being held responsible for a deal made, irrespective of them, between the previous governments of these two countries. The Ghanaian response appears to show that no one in Ghana knows how the government or the judiciary operates or their respective powers.
On 20 June, the Guantánamo war court prosecutor filed charges against Indonesian prisoner Riduan “Hambali” Isomuddin for his alleged direct involvement in the bombing of a Bali nightclub in 2002 and a 2003 bombing in Jakarta, Indonesia. The charges have yet to be approved by the Pentagon and thus the case may not go ahead, although the prosecutors have stated that they will not seek the death penalty. If the case goes ahead, it will be the first set of charges and prosecution under Donald Trump.
Hambali was kidnapped in 2003 in Bangkok by the CIA and Thai authorities. He was tortured there and then transferred to secret CIA torture prisons in Morocco and Romania before arriving at Guantánamo in 2006. He is held as a high-value prisoner away from other prisoners and most prison staff. Given the severe torture he has faced it is unlikely the US will ever release him in order to hide its own crimes against humanity. The Obama regime tried to persuade Australia to accept him and charge and try him for the Bali bombing, as most of the victims were Australian nationals, and then transfer him to Malaysia to face the death penalty. Indonesia has made it clear that it does not want him to return there. His charge sheet “alleges he directed three simultaneous bombings on Oct. 12, 2002 — in a pub, near a dance club and the U.S. Consulate — that killed 202 people in the lush, Indonesian island tourist destination of Bali that is popular with Western tourists. Australia suffered the largest number of casualties, 88 dead, followed by Indonesia with 38. The charge sheets name all the victims, including seven Americans who were killed and are the likely basis for prosecuting the case at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba”. His charges “include terrorism, murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, attacking civilians and civilian objects and destruction of property, in violation of the law of war”. Given how long it has taken to bring the charges, the fact that torture was used to obtain the evidence and the disproportionality of the charges – from alleged mastermind to direct responsibility for each death – how this case will proceed appears unclear.
An investigation has been launched into claims that illegal recordings were made of private client-attorney meetings involving the 9/11 defendants at Guantánamo from September 2015 to April 2017. Defence lawyers were then warned by a general that privileged communications were at risk leading to a complaint by the defence lawyers about possible interference in their work. This is the latest in a number of issues hampering the ability of the defence lawyers to work with the clients, sometimes undermining their clients’ trust in them as well.
In April, the 9/11 case military judge dismissed two of the charges against the five defendants - attacking civilian objects and destruction of property – claiming that the five year limitation period to bring such charges had ended and they were no longer valid. Prosecution lawyers appealed this and the charges have now been reinstated, on the basis that “During hostilities, a statute of limitations applying a time limit to prosecute law of war violations is not practicable.”
The judge in the case has also halted next month’s pre-trial hearing in response to a new policy that could see him having to travel to Guantánamo along with others attending the military commissions, such as family members, journalists and defence lawyers, which he claims could affect the proceedings.
In 2015, a video emerged which claims to show former Sudanese prisoner Ibrahim Al-Qosi speaking as a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) from Yemen and calling for war against the Americans. The video showed a still image of him and an alleged recording of his voice. Reports of it in the Yemeni media at the time attributed the Daily Mail as the source of the news, and the video, which was never formally translated, and eventually withdrawn and disappeared, has provided the basis for US government and right wing claims of prisoner recidivism and to legitimise US attacks on Yemen. Al-Qosi’s lawyer said that he had not heard from him in several years.
Another lawyer is trying to bring an appeal against his conviction. The court asked her earlier this year to establish a link to him, which it has now accepted but it has dismissed the US government’s argument that the appeal should not be allowed as Al-Qosi is an enemy belligerent, stating that “the Government relies primarily, if not completely, on hearsay” and that establishing his status is essential for the case to progress, as well as for the court to consider whether, if he is an enemy belligerent, that his appeal can be dismissed as his alleged hostility started long after the offences he was convicted of.
In a lawsuit brought against James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, psychologists and CIA contractors who devised and oversaw the CIA’s torture programme, the ACLU has filed a motion on behalf of three victims to rule that they played “critical role in designing, implementing, and profiting from the CIA torture program. Our clients are Suleiman Abdullah Salim, a fisherman from Tanzania; Mohamed Ben Soud, a Libyan citizen who opposed the Gaddafi regime; and Gul Rahman, an Afghan citizen who died as a result of his torture.” Through evidence gathering and testimonies by key individuals responsible for the programme under oath, new information has emerged to support this motion. According to the ACLU, “If the court finds that the defendants are indeed liable for aiding and abetting CIA torture, we’ll be fighting on behalf of our clients for damages and other liability claims in a trial later this year.”
The June Shut Guantánamo! monthly demonstration was on 1 June. Our next monthly demonstration is on Thursday 6 July at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, W1A, and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch: https://www.facebook.com/events/696995943836334/
The LGC marked UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture with a vigil in Trafalgar Square. Attended by around a dozen people, mainly Guantánamo activists, the action was a positive reminder on the thirtieth anniversary of the UN Convention Against Torture becoming international law and members of the public welcomed the event and engaged positively with it and its simple message that torture must end.