Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Only Place That Needs a Muslim Ban is Guantánamo Bay



10 years of regular LGC Shut Guantánamo! protests outside the US Embassy: Thursday 2 February: 12-1pm outside the US Embassy London & 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park (opposite Marble Arch)

In February 2007, inspired by the late Brian Haw’s permanent peaceful vigil opposite Parliament against the Iraq War, the LGC started regular protests outside the US Embassy in London to remind the people inside that the whole world had not forgotten about the plight of the prisoners at Guantánamo. First on a weekly basis, from February 2007 to August 2008, and monthly ever since, the LGC has had a regular presence outside the US Embassy come rain or shine, transport strike or snowfall. 
The first protest in February 2007
The LGC did not fail to see the prejudiced and discriminatory nature of the US’ post-9/11 policies: all the men held at Guantánamo are Muslim and non-American. There has been just a handful of prosecutions after 15 years out of the almost 800 prisoners held there. Of the 41 men who remain, none were captured by the US military or in Afghanistan: they were predominantly kidnapped or arrested by foreign intelligence and military forces and sold to the US, as were up to 90% of the Guantánamo prisoners in total.

We have used these regular protests to show solidarity with other prisoners of the war on terror as well – Dr Aafia Siddiqui, Palestinian-American prisoner in Iraq Shawki Ahmed Omar, extradited Britons Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, Chelsea Manning – as well as other US prisoners such as Mumia Abu Jamal and the hunger strikers at maximum security prisons in California in 2013. 

2012, marking our 5th anniversary, the Guantánamo prisoners were not forgotten by us

When Barack Obama failed to close Guantánamo Bay by 2010 and interest in the issue died down, even though over 200 prisoners remained there, the LGC’s regular demos were one of the few reminders anywhere of what was happening at Guantánamo. With similar protests held outside US Embassies by prisoners’ family members in countries like Kuwait, it was an honour to be a part of the small but persistent circle that never gave up. 
2014 protest
On 2 February, we will mark the tenth anniversary of this regular action. Over the past few years, on the first Thursday of each month, the protest has consisted of an hour (12-1pm) outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square and an hour (1.15-2.15pm) outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park (opposite Marble Arch), where there are more passers-by and tourists who are receptive and welcoming of our cause. This action is also our first demonstration under the Trump administration, which is continuing the policies of its predecessors at Guantánamo. Please join us https://www.facebook.com/events/706025256245152/

The LGC will also join the Stop The War Coalition’s Stop Trump’s Muslim Ban protest starting at 11am on Saturday 4 February at the US Embassy to march to Downing. If you can help us hand out leaflets to raise awareness or draw attention to this ongoing injustice by three US administrations, please get in touch.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

LGC Newsletter – January 2017


NEWS:
Guantánamo Bay:
There are currently 41 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. On 5 January, the Obama administration sent four Yemeni prisoners to Saudi Arabia. The four men are Mohammed Rajab Sadiq Abu Ghanem, Salem Ahmed Hadi bin Kanad, Abdullah Yehya Yousef al-Shibli and Mohammed Bawazir. Bawazir, who protested his detention with a lengthy hunger strike, had in January 2016 refused to be resettled in Europe, preferring to be sent to an Arabic-speaking country. He and Shibli were cleared for release in 2010 and the other two were cleared by the periodic review board for release last year. The men have families in Saudi Arabia with whom they were reunited.
Ten prisoners were released to Oman on a temporary basis on 15 January.
 
One day before leaving office, the Obama administration transferred a Saudi prisoner back to Saudi Arabia and three other prisoners – a Yemeni, an Afghan and a Russian – to the UAE.
Five prisoners who have been cleared for release by the Obama administration remain at Guantánamo. There were 242 prisoners at the facility in 2009 when Obama became president.
On 18 January, Sufyian Barhoumi, an Algerian prisoner who had been cleared for release, lost an emergency court petition demanding he is released before Trump becomes president and his chance to be released is lost. Although cleared by the board, the Department of Defense refused to allow his release. Donald Trump’s tweet from early January about not releasing any further prisoners was used as evidence in the case. The case was rejected as the judge decided not to overrule the power of the Department of Defense to continue his detention.

In spite of tweets by Donald Trump before he became president that he will not release any more prisoners and will instead load the facility up with “some bad dudes” as well as an alleged draft executive order published in the New York Times claiming that the Trump administration will resume waterboarding and other torture methods used by the CIA under the extraordinary rendition programme, thus far under Trump Guantánamo has continued to function exactly as it did under Obama. Guantánamo is not a priority for the current administration and there is no timetable for any possible orders related to its future. Instead, on Wednesday 25 January, the first military commission hearing of 2017 and under the Trump era commenced in the case of 5 men accused of involvement in the September 2001 attacks in New York. The hearing was however suspended after a few hours as one of the death penalty defence lawyers, Cheryl T. Bormann, had broken her arm and was unable to attend and the judge said the pre-trial hearing could not continue without her. Ironically, the defendant she represents has been trying to fire her for over a year and does not communicate with his defence team whom he would like replaced. The hearing has now been set back to March.
In addition, the first periodic review hearing of 2017 is scheduled for 9 February, whereby prisoners can be cleared for release. The first prisoner to come before the board under Trump is Omar Muhammad Ali al-Rammah.
 

On 11 January, the fifteenth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay, former Belgian prisoner Moussa Zemmouri who was released in 2005 brought a complaint against Belgium at the UN Committee on Torture in Geneva for the lack of assistance he was given by his state during the three years he was imprisoned at Guantánamo. He was assisted by his lawyers and a German NGO. The claim relates to the fact that Belgium knew of the ill-treatment and torture he was subjected to but did not prevent it. A complaint he brought in Belgium against the authorities in 2010 is ongoing and he has been subject to harassment by the authorities to deter him.

Former Moroccan prisoner Younis Chekkouri, who was released to Morocco in September 2015 where he continued to be held until February 2016, has been referred to the district court as the criminal court has ruled that it cannot hear the case related to terrorism charges.

Extraordinary rendition:
In a series of linked judgments related to the UK authorities’ involvement in extraordinary rendition and torture overseas, the UK Supreme Court ruled on 17 January that Libyan rendition victims Abdel Hakim Belhadj and his wife Fatima Bouchar, who were kidnapped and rendered to torture in Libya from Southeast Asia with the help of the UK and US authorities in 2004, can sue former foreign secretary Jack Straw and MI6 chief Sir Mark Allen. However, in other claims brought by victims of rendition in Iraq and Afghanistan the court ruled in favour of the government and in a case brought by a former Iraqi prisoner it ruled that the UK military could capture and detain “enemy combatants”. This decision may affect hundreds of claims currently pending against the Ministry of Defence for prisoner abuse in Iraq.
 
 
Fifty years after the UK government expelled the residents of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, and then leased the largest island Diego Garcia to the US military to use as a strategic military base, which was once used as a torture prison, on 1 January the British and US authorities signed a new 20-year lease for the military base.

LGC Activities:
The LGC marked the 15th anniversary of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp opening on 11 January 2002 with a sad clown protest outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar. Around 40 people joined the action which saw activists dressed as clowns hold up a banner stating “15 years of Guantánamo is no laughing manner!” The event attracted the attention of passers-by who saw the colourful outfits and then realised the purpose of the protest. http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/15-years-of-guantanamo-how-many-us.html

The LGC joined the protest outside the US Embassy to mark the inauguration of President Trump. Although several hundred people joined this protest organised by Stand Up to Racism, in 2009 the LGC protested alone outside the US Embassy against the ongoing injustice of Guantanamo and CIA torture, which have not changed over the past 8 years. The LGC protest on 20 January was noted by the BBC report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/world-us-canada-38682565A man in an orange jump suit and a clown mask has a banner reading "15 years in Guantanamo is no joke".
The LGC also joined the Women’s March on 21 January to remind the world that Guantánamo remains open with 41 prisoners. While the general public has become aware of the discriminatory and racist practices of the US administration since 9/11 in recent days this is exactly what we have been protesting against – and in solidarity with other discriminated minorities – for over almost 11 years. 
 Our first Shut Guantánamo! Demo of 2017 and under Donald Trump’s presidency also marks the tenth anniversary of our regular protests. We are outside the US Embassy at 12-1pm and outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, at 1.15-2.15pm on https://www.facebook.com/events/706025256245152/


Thursday, January 19, 2017

MEDIA RELEASE: London Guantánamo Campaign Comment on Inauguration of New US President Donald Trump


For release: Thursday, 19 January 2017 

The London Guantánamo Campaign [1] will join protests planned in London on Friday 20 January [2] and Saturday 21 January [3] to call on the new US president to close the Guantánamo Bay extra-legal prison facility [4].

Aisha Maniar, spokesperson for the London Guantánamo Campaign, says: “Regardless of who is the president of the United States, the fact that the Guantánamo Bay prison camp remains open after 15 years with over 40 prisoners is an indelible stain on the reputation of the US. It is a demonstration of US disdain for international law and human rights standards, and its proclaimed values of freedom and justice. The US appears only to uphold these values when it comes to the actions of non-allied states.

“We call on Donald Trump to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp and release all prisoners held there without charge or trial. It would be unacceptable to transfer these prisoners to indefinite detention elsewhere, a solution proposed by his predecessor.

“Nonetheless, in view of Donald Trump’s recent comments on the use of torture and the Guantánamo Bay prisoners, the outlook does not appear positive and we can only hope he keeps his pledges on Guantánamo as well as his predecessor. The closure of Guantánamo is long overdue and is a continuing financial and moral liability for the US.”

ENDS

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   



4. 780 prisoners have been held at Guantánamo. There are currently around 40 prisoners remaining. https://ccrjustice.org/home/get-involved/tools-resources/fact-sheets-and-faqs/guant-namo-numbers

Thursday, January 12, 2017

15 Years of Guantánamo: How Many US Presidents Does It Take to Close Guantánamo? (event report)


In under a week, Barack Obama will no longer be the president of the United States of America. Nonetheless, the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, which he promised to close down as an election pledge as early as 2007 and signed an executive order to this effect as one of his first acts as president in January 2009, remains open. As Guantánamo turned 15 on 11 January 2017, 55 prisoners remain, almost all held without charge and trial. For those who face trial by military commission, evidence against them has been obtained through the use of torture.

According to the Miami Herald, only one of the remaining prisoners, an Afghan, was captured by the US military: he has been cleared for release. More than 40 were captured by foreign forces all over the world and largely sold to the US military. Victims of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme, many oare survivors and witnesses to the worst forms of torture practiced by the CIA.




 
As the London Guantánamo Campaign (LGC) has done each year since 2008, we marked the anniversary of the opening of this extralegal black hole with a demonstration. Around 40 people joined the LGC on a sunny afternoon outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square for a “sad clown protest”. A bright and colourful demonstration, protesters worse clown suits and shouted demands for the closure of the prison camp.
Passers-by, many of whom were unaware of the anniversary, engaged positively with the protesters and stopped to talk and take photographs. The colourful protest was attractive from afar and once people approached to see what the clowns were doing the ironic message was very clear: 15 years of Guantánamo – of torture and indefinite detention – is no laughing matter.
 
Next week, as a new commander in chief takes responsibility of Guantánamo, we will urge him to close the facility, end the indefinite detention of the prisoners held there and an end to the regime of torture. Protests were also held in Los Angeles and Washington DC in the USA. The London Guantánamo Campaign thanks all the enthusiastic activists who joined us.

Photos: