Thursday, November 19, 2015
The London Guantánamo Campaign and the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, invite you to a panel discussion:
WE Tortured Some Folks* Too
A panel discussion on
Tuesday 8 December,
at 7-9pm in Lecture Theatre LG02, Professor Stuart Hall Building, Goldsmiths, University of London, Lewisham Way, London SE14 6NW (nearest underground: New Cross Gate)
Ben Griffin, Veterans for Peace UK
Adriana Edmeades, Rights Watch UK
Dr Juliet Cohen, Freedom From Torture
On 9 December 2014, the US Senate published part of its report into the CIA’s use of torture in its global programme of kidnap and torture: extraordinary rendition. The programme would have been impossible but for the collusion of other states, including the United Kingdom.
With the recent return of the last British resident held in Guantánamo Bay and fresh claims of prisoner abuse by the British army in Afghanistan, we invite you to join us to consider the impact the use of torture has on individuals, communities and social and political movements. We will also reflect on questions of impunity and what the use of state-sanctioned torture says about us as a society.
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/919502254800297/
To get to venue (fully accessible): http://www.gold.ac.uk/campus-map/
* In August 2014, these were the words used by Barack Obama to admit the CIA had indeed used torture in its extraordinary rendition programme
Sunday, November 01, 2015
The last British resident held at Guantánamo Bay returned home to the UK on Friday 30 October. Shaker Aamer arrived on a private jet at the Biggin Hill Airfield shortly before lunchtime where he met his legal team and was then taken to a private hospital to receive urgent medical attention following his 14-year ordeal of detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo Bay. He has been reunited with his wife and children, including his 13-year old son who he has met for the first time.
Shaker Aamer will require a considerable amount of medical care and specialist rehabilitation therapy. His British lawyers have reported that he is seeking an inquiry into the British government’s role in his ordeal and questioning by British intelligence services while he was detained.
Upon his release, Shaker Aamer issued the following statement:“The reason I have been strong is because of the support of people so strongly devoted to the truth. If I was the fire to be lit to tell the truth, it was the people who protected the fire from the wind. My thanks go to Allah first, second to my wife, my family, to my kids and then to my lawyers who did everything they could to carry the word to the world. I feel obliged to every individual who fought for justice not just for me but to bring an end to Guantanamo. Without knowing of their fight I might have given up more than once; I am overwhelmed by what people have done by their actions, their thoughts and their prayers and without their devotion to justice I would not be here in Britain now.
The reality may be that we cannot establish peace but we can establish justice. If there is anything that will bring this world to peace it is to remove injustice.”
The London Guantánamo Campaign’s statement on his release can be read here: http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/media-release-london-guantanamo.html
Aisha Maniar from the LGC spoke to Russia Today UK about his release and what lies ahead for the remaining 112 prisoners:
Although there are no longer any British residents in Guantánamo Bay, the LGC will continue to update this section with any relevant news concerning those who have been released. The release of all the British residents from Guantánamo was one of the campaign’s three goals when set up in 2006. We are pleased that after a decade one of our main aims has been achieved!
Following a bail decision in September easing conditions for Omar Khadr as he appeals his US military commission conviction from Canada, on 1 October, Omar Khadr travelled to Toronto by aeroplane with his lawyer Dennis Edney to meet his grandparents, the first time he has met family in person since his release from Guantánamo Bay in 2012. As part of his bail conditions, access to his family is restricted.
Following the election of Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on 19 October (he will officially assume the position on 4 November), Dennis Edney told reporters that the new Liberal Prime Minister could show his commitment to civil liberties and breaking with the policies of his predecessor Stephen Harper by dropping the appeal against Omar Khadr being granted bail pending his US appeal. Bail with conditions was granted in May this year and no date has been set for appeal.
Afghan prisoner Mohamed Kamin whose case was heard by the periodic review board in August has been cleared by the review board. He was brought to Guantánamo in 2004 and was once considered for a war trial. He was charged but the case was dropped in 2009. This decision means that 52 prisoners are now cleared for release and 28 are classified as ‘forever prisoners’.
Although Obama failed to outline his promised plan to close Guantánamo to Congress in September, in October the Pentagon carried out visits to potential sites in Colorado to house up to 60 prisoners the US may transfer to the mainland to continue their indefinite detention without charge or trial.
On 22 October, Barack Obama made the rare move of vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2016, which authorises the military budget for the coming year and has for many years placed restrictions on transfers from Guantánamo. Proposed clauses would have made it even harder for Barack Obama to close Guantánamo.
Although he gave Guantánamo as the reason for his veto, spending provisions also played a large part. A new budget deal has since been negotiated but the provisions concerning Guantánamo remain the same and are not expected to change. One Congress member said that the NDAA “provisions on Guantanamo are the "exact same language" Obama has signed into law in defense bills over the past five years.”
A vote is scheduled for 5 November to override Obama’s veto and while the spending amendments are likely to be incorporated, with no changes likely to be made concerning Guantánamo, it remains to be seen whether Obama will exercise his power to veto again over Guantánamo.
At a hearing on 22 October for former Guantánamo prisoner Younis Chekkouri, who was released last month but continues to be held in prison in Morocco and potentially faces terrorism charges, lawyers presented a letter from the US authorities showing that all charges had been dropped against him in 2011. In order to consider this new information and other information from the US, the judge set back a date to hear the charges against him to 4 November, citing a need for more information from the US on links it alleges he had to Moroccan terrorist groups. He remains in jail.
Former Australian Guantánamo prisoner Mamdouh Habib and his wife Maha were arrested and prevented from entering Turkey on 29 October. They had travelled to the country from Lebanon and were detained and questioned at Istanbul airport about past allegations that he was an “Al Qaeda terrorist trainer”. Their passports were temporarily confiscated and they were then returned to Lebanon. The couple is reported to be in the Middle East as Mr Habib, a joint Egyptian-Australian national, is taking legal action in Egypt against his rendition and the complicity of Australian intelligence (ASIO). The Turkish authorities named the Australian authorities in preventing their entry to the country.
Earlier that week, in ongoing legal action to make the Australian government disclosed documents related to its complicity in the torture of David Hicks, the Australian Information Commissioner ordered the office of the Prime Minister to disclose the documents as there is no practical reason to refuse to do so. A similar order made in June 2015 has yet to be complied with by the Australian government.
Pre-trial hearings continued on 22 October in the military tribunal case of five prisoners alleged to have links to the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York. Following initial problems, the hearing was held and an application by one of the defendants, Walid bin Al-Attash, to fire and replace his current lawyer was rejected. If granted, this would have further delayed the hearings by months.
Following the publication of the US Senate report into CIA torture in December 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is bringing a lawsuit against two psychologists, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, on behalf of three victims: Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, who died at the secret ‘Salt Pit’ prison: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/who-killed-gul-rahman. The crimes against humanity they are accused of being involved in include “water torture, forcing prisoners into boxes, and chaining prisoners in painful stress positions to walls”. The two surviving men continue to suffer physical and psychological damage as a result of their ordeals, details of which can be read in this article:
The November Shut Guantánamo demo will be on Thursday 5 November: https://www.facebook.com/events/1654820421472042/
The London Guantánamo Campaign is continuing its weekly #GitmObama Twitter storms since Barack Obama’s failure to announce a plan to close Guantánamo in September. Tweets that can be used during the action with this hashtag are provided in a pastebin (click on it and copy & paste the tweets) and everyone everywhere (who is on Twitter) is welcome to join in. The twitter storms are held on Mondays at 9pm GMT/ 4pm EST / 1pm PST. Please check our Twitter @shutguantanamo for further details and the pastebin to take part.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Media release: London Guantánamo Campaign welcomes release of last British resident in Guantánamo Bay
For immediate release: Friday 30 October 2015
The London Guantánamo Campaign  welcomes the release of the last British resident held at Guantánamo Bay, 48-year old Saudi national Shaker Aamer . Mr Aamer, who has indefinite leave to remain in the UK and a British family, has been held in Guantánamo Bay since February 2002 where he has never faced charges or trial, and was first cleared for release in 2007.
Aisha Maniar, spokesperson for the London Guantánamo Campaign, says, “The London Guantánamo Campaign welcomes the release of the last British resident Shaker Aamer, for whom we have campaigned since 2006.
“We are pleased for the family of Shaker Aamer and hope they will be given the space and privacy to reunite and reconnect as a family. Release from indefinite detention and torture after almost 14 years creates new challenges and difficulties and we urge that Shaker Aamer is given adequate opportunity to receive rehabilitation and all the care he requires as a survivor of torture.
“Shaker’s case has nonetheless demonstrated the frailty of the ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK. Unanswered questions remain, particularly why it has taken so long, when he was first cleared for release and his return was sought in 2007. Both the Conservative and Labour parties must respond.
“There are still 112 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay and we will continue to campaign for their release and the closure of the prison camp. The London Guantánamo Campaign also thanks the many individuals and grassroots organisations who have worked tirelessly for many years for his release, long before his case came to the public attention.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The London Guantánamo Campaign was set up in 2006 and campaigns for justice for all prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, for the closure of this and other secret prisons, and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition. http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.com
2. For more details on Shaker Aamer’s case, see http://www.reprieve.org.uk/case-study/shaker-aamer/
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
On 25 September, the British government announced that it had been informed by the US that the last remaining British resident Shaker Aamer, a Saudi national whose British wife and four children live in south London, has been cleared for release to the UK. Previously he had only been cleared for release to Saudi Arabia, a country he does not want to return to. The British government has pressed for his release to the UK since 2007, after he was cleared for release by the US for the first time. Following clearance by multiple agencies, it is estimated that he should be released to his family in the UK by 25 October. His family have called for his release not to be delayed. Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed this news and has called for Guantánamo to close.
Held at Guantánamo since February 2002, Shaker Aamer has never been charged or tried.
Prior to the summer recess, in July, Barack Obama announced that he would have a plan to submit to Congress in early September for the closure of Guantánamo before the end of his final term as president in early 2017. The plan never transpired and the media remained silent.
On the other hand, in early September, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the US navy that the plan to close Guantánamo is by transferring prisoners who have not been cleared for release to military prisons on the mainland. He also said that there is no plan to evacuate the base at Guantánamo and return it to Cuba.
In early September, a number of possible locations – existing military prisons and land owned by the military to construct such a facility – were visited. Congress is likely to object to any transfers of prisoners to the US mainland and senators for the states visited have already expressed their objections. The LGC objects to any plans to franchise Guantánamo and anything short of the safe release of all the prisoners held there almost wholly without charge or trial. The LGC also believes this to be a stalling tactic as there is no plan, given that the Obama government is fully aware that Congress will pose a block to such “plans”. Furthermore, transfer to the US mainland is unlikely to confer any new constitutional rights on the prisoners and they may be held in worse conditions.
Showing that there are no actual plans to close Guantánamo or release all the prisoners, a contract has been put out for tender by the government until 2025 to provide prosthetics for 5 prisoners who need them.
On 11 September, Omar Khadr had a bail hearing to have the conditions relaxed and so that he may be able to visit his family in Toronto, especially as his grandmother is ill. A number of conditions were lifted on the same day to allow him to attend night school and early morning prayers. On 18 September, the same judge also ruled to lift most of his bail conditions, as he had been compliant since his release in May this year but kept a few in place. He is allowed to visit his family before the end of this year provided he is accompanied by one of his lawyers.
On 25 September, Omar Khadr joined the audience at a screening of a new documentary about his life, Guantánamo’s Child, at the Calgary International Film Festival in Canada. After the showing, he answered questions from the public along with his lawyer Dennis Edney and the filmmaker journalist Michelle Shepherd.
Following an investigation into the risk of cancer at the war court at Guantánamo Bay, which has already caused some casualties and at least seven illnesses in legal staff, the US navy has concluded that there is no need for a full investigation and that air samples and other tests had shown there is no major risk.
Three prisoners were cleared for release by the prisoner review board this month. Libyan prisoner Omar Khalif was cleared for release on health grounds; he is considered too ill to pose a threat. He is an amputee with no right leg below the knee, is blind in one eye and has glaucoma as well as suffering from a psychiatric condition.
The last Kuwaiti prisoner Fayiz Al-Kandari, who had his bid for release turned down by the board last year, has finally been cleared too.
Saudi prisoner Mohammed Shimrani, one of the first to arrive at Guantánamo was also cleared for release following a review. He had previously boycotted his review hearing in protest at genital searches by guards.
There are 29 prisoners who are ‘forever’ prisoner, who are subject to indefinite detention. 53 prisoners have been cleared for release.
There are currently 114 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The first transfer in over 3 months was made on 16 September when Moroccan prisoner Younes Chekkouri was returned to his country of origin. However, he remains detained there; Chekkouri was held incommunicado for two days after which the authorities stated that he was being held on remand at the notorious Salé prison pending an investigation into terrorism-related charges. He was never charged or tried at Guantánamo. Following a meeting with his Moroccan lawyer, it emerged that the US had blindfolded and shackled him on his return journey to Morocco, traumatising him. He has, however, been allowed to meet his family for the first time in 14 years. His lawyers believe that the US has confidential information which if released to Morocco could see Chekkouri released.
On 22 September, Saudi prisoner Abdul Shalabi was returned to Saudi Arabia where he will be enrolled in a rehabilitation programme. An alleged close associate of Osama Bin Laden, he was never tried for any offences. He is reported to have been on hunger strike since 2005.
According to lawyers of rendition victim and current Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah, the Senate Torture Report, a redacted part of which was published in December 2014, provides evidence that Lithuania hosted a CIA torture prison. The report also makes hundreds of references to Abu Zubaydah’s case. He was one of the parties who won a case against Poland for torture at the European Court of Human Rights earlier this year. A similar case is pending against Lithuania, which reopened an inconclusive investigation it had earlier closed, claiming there was no evidence.
Lawyers for one of the 9/11 defendants Mustafa Al-Hawsawi have also filed a case with prosecutors in Lithuania to find out more about what happened at alleged torture sites in the country.
Police in Canada have brought charges against a Syrian colonel, Georges Salloum, for his role in the torture of Canadian-Syrian citizen Maher Arar who was rendered to Syria in 2002 and was tortured and held illegally in prisons there. An Interpol notice for Salloum’s arrest has gone out. Arar has sought his arrest and prosecution since 2005. In 2007, he received CA$10,000,000 from the Canadian government and has also had an official apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Canada was complicit in his torture. The US has never apologised.
The LGC was joined by the family of American-Palestinian prisoner in Iraq Shawki Ahmed Omar at the September demonstration. The October Shut Guantánamo demo will be on Thursday 1 October: https://www.facebook.com/events/444096722441447/
The London Guantánamo Campaign, along with Free Omar Khadr Now, held a Twitter storm on 8 September when Barack Obama’s plan to close Guantánamo failed to materialise. Encouraged by the success of this action, the LGC has held two other #GitmObama Twitter storms since then. Tweets that can be used during the action with this hashtag are provided in a pastebin (click on it and copy & paste the tweets) and everyone everywhere (who is on Twitter) is welcome to join in. The next Twitter storm will be on Monday 5 October at 9pm BST/ 4pm EST / 1pm PST. Please check our Twitter @shutguantanamo for further details and the pastebin to take part.
Tuesday, September 01, 2015
The main news about Guantánamo was the announcement by the White House that it will present a plan to close Guantánamo to Congress in early September: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pentagon-to-release-gitmo-closure-plan-after-august-recess/article/2569950
Although 52 of the remaining 116 prisoners have been cleared for release, including Shaker Aamer, no transfers have been made since June. In August, it emerged the delay is due to the new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter refusing to sign off their release. All previous releases had been signed by his predecessor Chuck Hagel. This is in spite of the fact that earlier in August the new envoy for the closure of Guantánamo Lee Wolosky stated that he had secured deals with around one dozen countries to accept at least half of those men.
For the remaining prisoners who are not facing trial and have not been cleared for release, the “forever prisoners”, it appears that Obama’s plan will not involve ending their 14 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial but simply shifting the physical prison at Guantánamo Bay to the US mainland, keeping the men in existing military prisons where they will remain under military control and will not be subject to potential trial in federal courts. The plan is not to close Guantánamo but to shift it and potentially franchise it. It has been reported that the Pentagon has already made visits to facilities in South Carolina and will visit others in Kansas and four other potential sites. Some media have reported that it is possible that a new Guantánamo will be built from scratch on military-owned land. There do not appear to be plans to release these prisoners. However, a potential block to the forthcoming plan is whether Congress will allow prisoners to be transferred to the US mainland.
The governors of South Carolina and Kansas have stated that they will block efforts to send the prisoners there and have threatened to sue if the plan goes ahead. Mistakenly calling the prisoners “terrorists”, it must be pointed out that there are no terrorists at Guantánamo Bay; the few prisoners who have been convicted have not been convicted of terrorism charges.
It has also been revealed that out of the remaining 116 prisoners, only 3 were captured on the battlefield by the US. This includes those accused of involvement and facing trial for the 9/11 attacks. The others, like the majority of Guantánamo prisoners overall, were sold to the US military by allied Afghan warlords, many of whom in practice bore little difference to the Taliban.
On 5 August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a new report “Towards the Closure of Guantanamo” which condemns the US for its human rights abuses at Guantánamo, the discriminatory nature of the detention of Muslim men and demands its closure without further delay:
Pre-trial hearings for five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks was cancelled yet again. A hearing scheduled from 24 August to early September was cancelled, meaning that no hearings have been held at all this year.
Afghan prisoner Mohammed Kamin, 37, had his hearing before the periodic review board on 17 August. He arrived at Guantánamo in 2004, was subject to charges that were later dropped and never pursued and has been described as “one of the most compliant detainees at Guantánamo”.
In June, AlJazeera showed film footage on its Arabic channel, reportedly showing a raid by Slovakian police on the home of former Guantánamo prisoner Hisham Sliti, a Tunisian, who was released there last year. Although he is supposed to be resettled, he is at a centre for asylum seekers. The video, shot by another resident on a mobile phone, showed the police violently entering, sounds of shouting and later images of broken household items from inside, as well as Sliti being led away by the police. Slovak media have also alleged he was tortured. The police deny all the claims. Amnesty Slovakia has written to the government demanding an independent and thorough investigation of the incident.
Lawyers for prisoner Tariq Ba Odah, a 36-year old Yemeni, who was cleared for release years ago, have lost their legal case to have him released on medical grounds. He has been on hunger strike since 2007 against his detention and continually force fed. He currently weighs 34kg. Although his lawyers say he is poor health, the US military maintains that he is fine.
Former Bagram prisoner, Russian national Irek Hamidullin, was found guilty by a jury of all charges including providing material support to a terrorist organisation and trying to destroy US military aircraft in Afghanistan in 2009, where he was arrested. He was held without charge at Bagram until 2014 when he was transferred to the US and to the FBI to stand trial in a federal court for an attack in which his alleged Taliban co-defendants were all killed and no US personnel or tanks were harmed. During his trial, he did not speak. His lawyers claimed there was insufficient evidence to back up the evidence. He was found guilty on 7 August and will be sentenced later this year. He faces a life sentence.
The LGC August Shut Guantánamo demonstration was attended by 8 people in the pouring rain. The September demo will be on Thursday 3 September: https://www.facebook.com/events/1482180842105413/
The LGC will be holding its second campaigns meeting this year on Monday 14 September at 6pm in Friends House, Euston Road, NW1 from 6pm onwards. Please join us and get involved in our work to close Guantánamo. We will meet in the café. Please e-mail us for more details. All are welcome.