Tuesday, June 06, 2017
LGC Newsletter – May 2017
Pre-trial proceedings continued in May in the case of five men accused of involvement in attacks on New York in September 2001. As part of the proceedings, another prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, who was severely tortured as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme but faces no charges, was due to give evidence on 12 May of the abuses the men claim they face at the secretive high security Camp 7 where they are all held, away from other prisoners and most of the prison guards. He was the first person to be subjected to waterboarding by the CIA and has successfully prosecuted Poland before the European Court of Human Rights for its role in his rendition and torture. Lawyers for one of the defendants, Ramzi bin Al Shibh, have tried for over a year to get Abu Zubaydah to testify about life at the camp to support “al Shibh’s claim that somebody is intentionally harassing him with noises and vibrations to disrupt his sleep. The military denies any sleep-deprivation program is happening, but both the prison and captives consider Zubaydah a respected, well-behaved block leader.”
Abu Zubaydah decided not to testify as he would not be allowed to talk about the torture he faced in CIA custody for years before arriving at Guantánamo Bay in 2006. Had he testified, it would have been the first time he would have spoken in public since he was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2002. As he would not be given a fair chance to discuss the issues he wants or talk about the abuse he has faced, he decided there would be no benefit in testifying.
As part of the pre-trial hearings, lawyers for the five defendants argued that the tribunal was not legitimate and that the case against them should be dismissed as it is contrary to the international law of war. A variety of claims were made against the legitimacy of the charges in a war situation and whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the case; the men face the death penalty if found guilty. Prosecution lawyers defended the legitimacy of the court and the judge has yet to rule on these motions which go to the very heart of the legitimacy of the court.
Saifullah Paracha, 69, the oldest prisoner held at Guantánamo, has had his second bid to be cleared for release by the periodic review board rejected. The former international businessman offered to retire upon release and close his businesses; his plan is to return to Pakistan and spend his time with his family. Aged almost 70, his health is declining and he has never been charged since being kidnapped by the US in 2003. The board decided that his “continued refusal to take responsibility for his involvement with al-Qaida” was the reason for this continued detention. He is considered a very compliant prisoner but his lawyer argues that he cannot show remorse for things he maintains he did not do. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article151705882.html
The Spanish Supreme Court upheld the 11.5-year sentence given to former Moroccan prisoner Lahcen Ikassrien for having led a terrorist cell in Madrid that allegedly raised funds for ISIS. He was sentenced in September 2016 along with eight co-defendants.
Former Moroccan prisoner Younes Chekkouri was given a five-year sentence by the Criminal Court in Rabat on 3 May on charges related to terrorism. He was charged upon his return to the country in 2015 and was only released from prison in Morocco on bail in February 2016. His lawyers plan to appeal the conviction and sentence.
Sabir Mahfouz Lahmar, a former Algerian prisoner arrested in Bosnia in 2001, who was released and allowed to settle in France in 2009 with his family, was one of six people arrested in the French city of Bordeaux on 29 May on claims of being part of a recruitment ring for the Islamic State militant group. He was later charged with association with a terrorist organisation and is being held on remand. Given that he is a former Guantánamo
prisoner, he is suspected of having influenced people to go and fight in Iraq and Syria.
Lawyers in the ongoing case of Yemeni prisoner Hamza Ali Al-Bahlul, who was convicted by a military commission in 2009 and later won his appeal to have his conviction quashed twice, have taken the case to the Supreme Court and are asking the court to settle the issue of the validity of the jurisdiction of the military commissions: whether or not they have the power to hear the alleged war crimes cases brought before them.
Lawyers are also asking for clarity on this point in the case of Abd Al Nashiri, who is currently facing a military commission trial. His lawyers have already asked the court whether his offences can be classed as war crimes when they relate to alleged actions in the 1990s, before the war on terror started; the court replied that it was a legitimate question but one that should be considered after his trial is complete.
The May Shut Guantánamo! monthly demonstration was on 4 May. In addition to our regular, monthly demonstration outside the US Embassy and Hyde Park, the LGC also joined a number of other actions to raise awareness of the ongoing plight of 41 men held at Guantánamo for over 15 years. We joined the London May Day march on 1st May and the vigil on 17 May to welcome the release of Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning from jail in the US following her pardon.