Sunday, September 25, 2016

Book Review: TORTURE: DOES IT WORK?

Noel Hamel from the London Guantánamo Campaign reviews Yvonne Ridley's new book (out September 2016)


TORTURE: DOES IT WORK?
INTERROGATION ISSUES AND EFFECTIVENESS IN THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR

YVONNE RIDLEY.  ISBN 978-1-78266-830-5
Yvonne Ridley’s book is an extremely competent and well researched interrogation of its title question. Yet, is there ambiguity in the word “work”?  Does torture have a purpose? Is it for interrogation? Or is it for sadistic satisfaction, for revenge, to intimidate and to spread fear? Even if it "works" for any of the latter, does it actually produce intelligence?
Torture is ancient but it was outlawed after 1945 by ‘civilised societies’ sickened by the Japanese and Nazis. Many states queued up to sign-on but still torture now. Prominent signatory states went ‘underground’ whilst denying they torture. The 9/11 attacks caught the lame rookie president, George Bush, off-balance. To ‘restore’ the image of the presidency, draconian revenge stunts were planned embracing wars and high profile torture. Totally innocent people were seized to appease US electorate expectations of decisive action. 5000 were detained, justified by concocted personalised ‘terrorism’ myths. Under instruction to “soften up” prisoners, armed forces and ‘intelligence’ agents were emboldened to abuse, torture, injure and humiliate victims in every way possible. Lawyers devised inventive justifications for torture, pretending it was legal and legitimate. The UK fawningly colluded and has expensively ‘bought-off’ legal challenges, avoiding scrutiny. But why do it at all? Revenge and propaganda were motivations but is there more?
For years the USA invested millions of dollars in training torturers. Now they were employed for “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” - torture redefined by lawyers. ‘Professional’ torture was overseen by medical professionals to avoid permanent injury but even so boundaries were stretched. Below the radar servicemen and women tortured and abused without restraint. Death and injury were not uncommon. Other torturers worked secretively at ‘black’ sites and in states where torture is routine. Victims were secretly flown round the globe with covert international cooperation. Guantánamo was an artificial extralegal construct where ‘anything goes’.
If the intent was intelligence gathering from victims, since most clearly lacked any useful information, torturing for intelligence was futile. Under torture false admissions are common. ‘Admissions’ about other people come easily compared to anything personally incriminating. The torturers filed third party stories as if they were evidence. Torturers were obsessed with Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts but got nowhere. He was found by basic surveillance. Torture advocates cite the “ticking time bomb” justification; thwarting a devastating attack in the nick of time by extracting, through torture, information to disable a bomb; but that didn’t remotely resemble any US torture scenario.
Ibn Sheikh al-Libi was shunted between sites and gruesomely tortured, particularly in Cairo. He invented stories about a ricin plot in London, Saddam Hussein working with Osama bin Laden and weapons of mass destruction shared with terrorists – justification for the Iraq war – to get some relief. Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were intensively tortured by Bush approved CIA techniques. Both invented far-fetched terror plots, keeping agents busily checking to forestall possible attacks. The announced discovery of the ‘dirty bomb plot’ by Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002 is notorious. According to him CIA interrogation (torture) saved New Yorkers from devastating radiation exposure to be dispersed by an explosive device. Jose Padilla, held three and a half years in solitary confinement without due process, was cleared for lack of credible evidence. That and the London ricin plot were hoaxes.
Advocates of torture claim torture produces vital intelligence but say national security prevents disclosure. Yvonne interviewed victims who all say torture is futile, gratuitous barbarity. Add to that the self-inflicted image damage of barbarity and utter hypocrisy, the licence given to other states, corrupt governments, dictators, tyrants and terrorist groups. Torture by the USA and allies is a recipe for world-wide regression. Thanks a lot George Bush!
Anyone who thinks torture might possibly be a useful tool in warfare and to combat terrorism should read this well researched and considered book.

Friday, September 16, 2016

URGENT ACTION: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner on Hunger Strike in Uruguay Demanding Family Reunion


Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, 45, spent 12 years at Guantánamo without charge or trial. Cleared for release in 2010, he was eventually released to Uruguay as a Syrian refugee with five others in December 2014.

In 2013, Dhiab (also known as Abu Wa’el Dhiab, or Diyab) took part in the mass hunger strike involving the majority of prisoners, and remained on hunger strike until his release. As a result, he was very weak and underweight when released and continues to walk on crutches.
He was beaten, placed in solitary confinement and subject to force feeding by nasal tube at Guantánamo while on hunger strike. He sued the US government to force them to stop force feeding him in a manner the UN has stated is tantamount to torture. A judge has ordered that videos showing the brutal way in which Dhiab was tortured are disclosed; the court case is ongoing and the US government is fighting tooth and nail to prevent their disclosure. In recent weeks it has claimed that such disclosure could aid terrorists; in truth, it would be hugely embarrassing to the US government. 

Adapting to life in Uruguay as refugees and survivors of torture has not been easy for Dhiab and the other former prisoners. As well as isolation, media demonisation, destitution and an inability to speak Spanish, a key issue for Dhiab has been reunification with his family, some of whom remain in war-torn Syria and others who are currently refugees in Turkey.

The Uruguayan government has promised on numerous occasions to bring them to Uruguay. This has not happened and Dhiab would not be able to host them on a meagre stipend he receives and which is due to run out at the end of the year. He has instead demanded he is sent to Turkey or any Middle Eastern country that will accept him and his family.

In June Dhiab briefly disappeared from Uruguay. The media deliberately and wrongly claimed he had travelled to Brazil and was planning to sabotage the Olympic Games in Rio. Instead, he reappeared at the Uruguayan Embassy in Venezuela in July and again demanded to be sent to Turkey to be with his wife and children. Upon leaving the embassy, he was arrested and held incommunicado by the Venezuelan authorities who denied him access to his lawyer, effectively holding him as he was held at Guantánamo. He was returned to Uruguay in late August.

Dhiab  has been on hunger strike since 12th August and has refused liquids since 1st September. He has been hospitalised twice and on 14th September was in a coma for over 9 hours. He is demanding to be sent to Turkey or any other Middle Eastern country which will accept them where he can live peacefully with his wife and children. The Uruguayan authorities are currently trying to find such a country but claim it is proving difficult. 

It is inevitable that the US is also involved; the pressure on Dhiab is clearly a dimension of the US’ efforts to force Dhiab to give up his lawsuit in the US. The right to family life is a human right.

More information:
Jihad Dhiab explains why he is on hunger strike in English, Arabic and Spanish

Update:

TAKE ACTION!
There are two things you can do to help support Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab:

1) Please sign and share the following petition to the President of Uruguay demanding that his government takes urgent action to reunite the Dhiab family: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Dr_Tabare_Vazquez_President_of_Uruguay_Save_the_Life_of_Mr_JDhiab_on_Hunger_Strike_in_Uruguay/

2) Send an individualised letter (in English or Spanish) to the President of Uruguay demanding:
- the Uruguay government takes immediate steps to find a safe third country for Dhiab and his family to be resettled together
- the Uruguay government provides him with the resources to make this happen
A draft letter is provided below:

Your Excellency,
I am writing to you concerning Mr Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, a Syrian refugee in your country who was previously held without charge or trial by the United States at Guantánamo Bay for over 12 years. Mr Dhiab has been on hunger strike since August in protest at the fact that almost two years since his release he has not been reunited with his family in spite of repeat promises.
Since family reunification in Uruguay does not appear to be feasible, I urge you to take urgent measures to send Mr Dhiab to a Middle Eastern or Arab country where he can live peacefully together with his family, who are also refugees. Mr Dhiab has been in a coma and has been hospitalised several times. His situation is worsening. I therefore urge to look into and resolve this as a matter of urgency.

Send letters to:
His Excellency Dr Tabare Vazquez
President of the Oriental Republic of  Uruguay
Torre Ejecutiva, Plaza Independencia 710
11.000 Montevideo Uruguay

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

LGC Newsletter – August 2016

NEWS:
Guantánamo Bay:
There are currently 61 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, of whom 21 have been cleared for release. On 14 August, Barack Obama made the single largest transfer of his presidency when he sent 15 prisoners – 12 Yemenis and 3 Afghans – to the UAE to be settled there. None of the men had ever stood trial at Guantánamo; all are now effectively refugees. At least half of the Yemenis had been cleared for release for over 7 years and could have been released at any point during his presidency. However, no Yemenis have been returned to Yemen since 2009 and coupled with the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, the Afghan government has made no effort to demand the return of its remaining citizens held at Guantánamo. The last repatriation to that country was made in 2014.
Although the men and their families are pleased about the releases, the conditions in the UAE, which agreed to settle 5 other prisoners who could not return to their own countries in November 2015, involve a large number of restrictions. These include:
  • A 24-hour surveillance of detainees for an extended period of time.
  • The detainees accept that their movement within the UAE will be restricted to certain geographical areas and that they will not travel outside the country, at least for a certain period.
  • The detainees must voluntarily accept a surveillance of their phones, internet and personal communication.
  • The detainees must voluntarily accept to undergo a rehabilitation program to lead a normal law-abiding life in the future.http://newsweekme.com/guantanamo-the-outcasts/
    Although the media praised the move as proof of Obama’s determination to close Guantánamo before he leaves office, having reduced the prisoner population by one-fifth in one day, it should be remembered that most of these men could have been released far earlier and there are about 15 prisoners who are unlikely to ever be released and thus even if the physical prison at Guantánamo closes, the perpetual indefinite detention of up to 20 prisoners is likely to continue.

Eight prisoners had their cases reviewed by the administrative periodic review board in August. The arbitrary system applied by the board considers whether or not prisoners are believed to continue to pose a threat to the USA and its interests or can be released. It does not consider the legality of their imprisonment. Being cleared by the board does not guarantee release.
On 2 August, high-value Somali prisoner Guleed Hassan Ahmed, 42, who has no legal representation, had his review. He was kidnapped and rendered by the CIA in 2004; he arrived at Guantánamo two years later in 2006. Two anonymous military representatives who have known him for a short while spoke on his behalf.
The US military accused him of links to Al Qaeda and other militant groups in East Africa; his connections to the latter appear to have been non-violent as the groups he has admitted to having ties with were not militant at the time the CIA accused him of working with them. His representatives stated he has no ill will to the US and simply wants to be reunited with his wife and four children who live in Canada.
Another high-value prisoner, Afghan Muhammad Rahim, 51, had his hearing on 5 August. Rahim was arrested in Pakistan in 2007 and was the last person to enter the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme. His torture before he arrived at Guantánamo included “attention grasps, facial holds, abdominal slaps, dietary manipulation consisting almost exclusively of water and liquid Ensure meals, and eight extensive sleep deprivation sessions”, the longest lasting 138.5 hours. The US claims he is a terrorist but he claims that any work he did for Al Qaeda was simply done for money and he now regrets his actions.
Two Malaysian nationals held at Guantánamo had their review board hearings on 9 and 11 August. Mohd Farik bin Amin was first. He was kidnapped by the CIA in Thailand in 2003 with other prisoners. Following years of torture in CIA secret prisons, he arrived at Guantánamo in 2006 with the other Malaysian national and Indonesian prisoner Hambali. The US claims he went to Afghanistan in 2000 for training in an Al Qaeda-run camp. Although all three are high-value prisoners none have ever been charged. He has been one of the most compliant prisoners at Guantánamo and is reported to want to just go home. Malaysian embassy representatives attended the hearing but the Malaysian press has reported that the country does not want its two prisoners returned. This may be due to the role the Malaysian government played in providing intelligence for their capture.
Mohammed Bashir bin Lap, also known as "Lillie”, had his hearing on 11 August with similar claims made against him. He too simply wishes to return home and start a family.
http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/08/11/guantanamo-report-casts-pall-over-detainee-hearing.htm
The third of the Southeast Asian trio Indonesian Hambali (real name Encep Nurjaman), 52, had his review board hearing on 18 August. He is accused of being an Al Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia and part of the gang that carried out deadly bombings in Bali in 2002.  Malaysia has asked for him not to be returned to Indonesia and the Indonesian government has already said that it does not want him to return home.
Libyan high-profile prisoner Mustafa Faraj Muhammad Masud al-Jadid al-Uzaybi , 45, had his hearing on 16 August. He expressed an intention to return home to his family in Libya and his representatives said that his medical condition would make it impossible for him to engage in any military action if released. He is reported to be a compliant prisoner.
Haji Wali Muhammed, 50, an Afghan national, had his review board hearing on 25 August. A money changer who ran a small business in Afghanistan, he is reported to have made transactions with various militant groups but is not known to have any terrorist links himself. He arrived at Guantánamo in May 2002 and has been a highly compliant prisoner.
The most important review board hearing took place on 23 August, that of Zayn al-Ibidin Muhammed Husayn, a stateless Palestinian also known as Abu Zubaydah. At the hearing he was briefly seen for the first time since 2002. Severely tortured by the CIA following his kidnap in 2002 over three continents – for which he has so far successfully sued Poland – including having been waterboarded 83 times in one month, the US later conceded, after severe torture that has seen him lose his left eye, that it had the wrong man and that he is not a terrorist or a threat. Nonetheless, these very same claims that the US military has now admitted were not true and reflect a lack of intelligence were used by the US military to defend his continued detention; the US had conceded as early as 2006 that they had the wrong man. He had been used a guinea pig for CIA torture methods. No mention was made of his torture during the hearing. Given what Abu Zubaydah knows about the US’ torture methods, his release, and that of the other high-value prisoners who had hearings this month, is unlikely.

In August, five prisoners had decisions made following their review hearings: the board cleared Yemeni Hail Aziz Ahmed Al-Maythali, 39, for release and recommended he is sent to an Arabic-speaking country in the Gulf region, as he cannot return home, and Algerian Sufyian Barhoumi, 43. On the other hand, it decided to continue the detention of Abdul Rabbani Abu Rahmah, 49, a Pakistani citizen born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Libyan Ismael Ali Faraj Ali Bakush who did not participate in his hearing and Omar Mohammed Ali Al-Rammah, 40, a Yemeni citizen.

Ahead of his scheduled hearing next month, Pakistani media has reported that the US has decided to release Pakistani prisoner Ahmed Rabbani due to a lack of evidence against him. Having grown up in Saudi Arabia and fluent in Arabic, he was mistaken for an Arab when he was arrested in Pakistan.
https://arynews.tv/en/us-decides-to-free-pakistani-suspect-from-gitmo-prison/

A US appeal court rejected an appeal by Abd Al-Nashiri to have his case halted as his lawyers claim that he is being charged with war crimes even though his acts did not take place within the context of war as the US was not engaged in hostilities with Al Qaeda at the time that the attacks he is linked to took place in the Gulf of Aden in 2000. Instead the court ruled that the war court has the jurisdiction to hear his case and that he can appeal this point after the case is heard. His lawyers tried to have this point expedited in view of the torture he suffered in the four years during which he “disappeared” into CIA secret prisons between 2002 and 2006.
Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian refugee who was released without charge from Guantánamo to Uruguay in December 2014 allegedly briefly disappeared for a few weeks from mid-June. In early August, it was discovered that he was in Venezuela, which he had entered illegally. This was discovered when he went to the Uruguayan embassy to ask for help to go to Turkey or another country where he can be reunited with his wife and children who are stuck in war-torn Syria. The request was refused and the Venezuelan authorities arrested and detained him without charge and held him incommunicado. His US lawyer and others were not allowed to communicate with him. In mid-August, he went on hunger strike in protest, having effectively ended up in the same conditions as he was being held in at Guantánamo. On 30 August he was deported back to Uruguay where he was subject to medical and psychological tests before being sent home. The Uruguayan government said that his family will be reunited with him in Uruguay but the authorities there have been promising this since he was release over 20 months ago.

Extraordinary Rendition:
The extradition of former CIA agent Sabrina de Sousa to serve her sentence in Italy for her role in the 2003 kidnapping and rendition to torture of Egyptian-born Imam Abu Omar in Milan has been temporarily halted. The extradition which was supposed to take place by 18 June after she lost her case against extradition at the Portuguese Supreme Court was stayed after the Italian court said that its decision was final and that there would be no retrial or appeal. It may now be possible for her to make a further appeal before the Portuguese courts on this basis. She was originally sentenced to 7 years and the sentence was later reduced to 4 years.

Two CIA-contracted psychologists, James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, accused of devising the torture methods used by the CIA as part of its extraordinary rendition programme are suing the CIA for disclosure of documents that they claim will prove they did not design and implement the torture methods a number of victims are now suing them for in the US courts. The two men failed to claim immunity and have the case thrown out. The CIA is refusing to give these documents to the men, claiming their request is vague, and has instead suggested it could offer an anonymous witness to provide information, which the men have rejected. With the CIA refusing to provide the evidence, this may mean that the case will be thrown out, as when one of the parties is unable to make sufficient disclosure to make their case, the case is usually not allowed to proceed.

LGC Activities:
The August Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 4 August. The September demonstration is on 1 September at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch: https://www.facebook.com/events/1655387634779089/

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 http://pastebin.com/zpx5F7ab which is updated weekly with the latest information and tweets to raise awareness about Guantánamo. Please join us online if you can!


Friday, July 29, 2016

LGC Newsletter – July 2016



NEWS:
Guantánamo Bay:
There are currently 76 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay. On 10 July, Yemeni prisoner Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman was resettled in Italy. He was cleared for release in 2010 but remained at Guantánamo as there was nowhere for him to go after Barack Obama placed a moratorium on returns to Yemen in 2010.
Around the same time, two prisoners – Yemeni Mansur Ahmad Saad al-Dayfi and Tajik Muhammadi Davliatov – were transferred for resettlement to Serbia. Al-Dayfi had also been cleared for release in 2010. Davliatov, who is stateless, was cleared for release in 2009. These are the first transfers to Serbia and come against a background of trade and diplomatic concessions in return for accepting the former Guantánamo prisoners.

Three prisoners had their cases reviewed by the prisoner review board in July to decide – through an arbitrary process – whether they can be cleared for release.
On 7 July, Pakistani Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani came before the board. He expressed regret at having worked alongside Al Qaeda as a cook and having helped Khalid Sheikh Mohammed accommodate and transport fighters. He did not deny any allegations made against him but said that he was unaware of the politics surrounding the situation at the time. His defence stated that his economic situation meant that working for Al Qaeda was a useful means of supporting his family at the time and that he had no ideological motivation.
On 14 July, Libyan Ismael Ali Faraj Ali Bakush, 48, who is alleged to have links to former terrorism organisations in Libya and to have used his explosives expertise to help Al Qaeda in Pakistan, had his hearing. He admitted having a minor role in the Libyan organisation but denied having any expertise with explosives. He expressed anger at the current government in Libya – which is currently engaged in warfare with various other groups in the country – but stated he did not intend to become involved in fighting again. No charges were ever brought against him.
http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/blog/libyan-gitmo-detainee-gets-prb-review-list-shrinks
On 21 July, Yemeni Omar Mohammed Ali Al-Rammah came before the board. He was detained in Georgia where he was fighting with the Chechens in 2001 before being rendered to the US military and torture facilities in Afghanistan before taken to Guantánamo. He was never charged. His counsel said he would like to work and get on with his life. He is not particularly interested in politics or religion and as a young man enjoyed football and dancing.

In addition, 7 prisoners learned the outcome of their hearings held in previous months: there are currently 32 prisoners cleared for release.
Abdul Latif Nasir, 51, the last Moroccan held at Guantánamo was cleared. Alleged to be a Taliban commander and weapons trainer he was never charged. He is to be returned to Morocco. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article89215797.html
Yemeni Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, 34, who was described as a pleasant prisoner was cleared for release after his second hearing this year. A previous hearing in January deemed he was still too dangerous to release.
Best-selling author of the Guantánamo Diary and the last Mauritanian prisoner in Guantánamo was cleared for release on 20 July.
Afghan prisoner Abdul Zahir was cleared at around the same time. During his review hearing, it emerged that he was arrested by the US military in Afghanistan in a case of mistaken identity.
Yemeni Muhammed Raj ab Sadiq Abu Ghanim was also cleared for release http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN044/20160706_U_ISN_44_FINAL_DETERMINATION.pdf  as was Russian Ravil Mingazov http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN702/160721_U_ISN702_FINAL_DETERMINATION_PUBLIC_v1.pdf who has requested not to be returned to Russia, where he fears he will face further persecution and imprisonment as other returnees to Russia have faced. He has asked instead to be sent to the UK where his wife and children have been accepted as refugees.
At the same time, however, the board decides to continue the detention of several other prisoners, including Afghan Haroon Al-Afghani http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article91470287.html Algerian Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN685/20160706_U_ISN_685_FINAL_DETERMINATION.pdf  and Saudi Mohammed Al-Qahtani who is known to be schizophrenic and suffer from severe mental illness. The US military has admitted torturing him and charges against him were dropped due to the extreme torture he was subject to. Among the reasons given were that he refused to admit his alleged role in Al Qaeda. The US believes he was a potential 20th hijacker on 9/11 and not just a man with a long history of severe mental illness. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article92228362.html
For most of the prisoners who have been cleared for release there is no guarantee they will be leaving Guantánamo any time soon.

Pre-trial hearings continued in two of the military commission cases. A hearing was held in the case of Al-Hadi Al-Iraqi, accused of leading attacks against the US and its allies in Afghanistan in 2002-2004. During the hearing, the case was set to be reconvened on 19 September. His lawyers asked for the proceedings to be frozen due to a lack of civilian defence lawyers in his case (as he is not facing the death penalty). Four volunteer civilian lawyers had joined his team, including Erwin Chemerinsky, constitutional law expert and dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine; however, none of them have yet received security clearance to attend the court or meet their client. His defence team asked the proceedings to be halted until they are able to do so. His defence wants to look at the issue of whether the US Constitution applies to the Guantánamo war court.
The Pentagon revealed that the only civilian prosecutor had abandoned the case.

Pre-trial hearings also continued progress at a snail’s pace in the case of five men accused of involvement in attacks on New York City in September 2001. The oral arguments centre on evidence that had been destroyed – approved by the judge – related to the secret detention and torture of the defendants by the CIA. During the hearing, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s lawyer David Nevin argued that the judge Col. James Pohl and the prosecution team should be disqualified for destroying evidence. The judge questioned whether he can disqualify himself.

Two former Guantánamo prisoners were sentenced by the Brussels Criminal Court on 18 July for involvement in an armed robbery, the proceeds of which were allegedly to be used to fund terrorist activity in Syria. The two men, Moussa Zemmouri, 38, a Belgian national, and Soufiane Abbar Huwari, 46, an Algerian national, were arrested in July 2015 with five others. Zemmouri, who was not actually involved in the burglary or charged with involvement in terrorist activity, was convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit the burglary. He was given a 40-month suspended sentence. The other man was accused of funding terrorism in Syria and being responsible for a criminal gang. He was sentenced to 12 years. Huwari was not identified until the case came to trial and he was described as being a threat by the prosecution, which raises questions as to why he was allowed to enter and live in Belgium in 2014 if the authorities deemed him to pose a threat to the safety of Belgians.

Extraordinary Rendition:
Authorities in the US have rejected a request by the police in Scotland to have access to the full unredacted CIA Torture Report, a small, censored part of which was published in December 2014. The request was made over 18 months as part of an ongoing criminal investigation in Scotland into a number of rendition flights into and out of Scottish airports. At least 6 flights are currently being examined.

LGC Activities:
The July Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 7 July. The August demonstration is on 4 August at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch: https://www.facebook.com/events/276214336087082/

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 http://pastebin.com/zpx5F7ab which is updated weekly with the latest information and tweets to raise awareness about Guantánamo. Please join us online if you can!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

LGC Newsletter – June 2016



NEWS:
Guantánamo Bay:
There are currently 79 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay after one Yemeni prisoner was transferred to Montenegro on 22 June. Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al-Rahabi, 36, arrived at Guantánamo on 11 January 2002. Accused of having once served as a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden, as a very large number of other Guantánamo prisoners have been, he was never charged or tried for any offences.

Pre-trial hearings into the alleged involvement of 5 Guantánamo Bay prisoners in the attacks in New York on 11 September 2001 continued this month. As part of consideration of the conditions in which the defendants are being held in and the torture they claim to have suffered at Guantánamo, two other prisoners, who are not facing charges, were called to give evidence in the case. Somali prisoner Hassan Guleed told the court of the torture he has been subject to in the secret camp (Camp 7) he and the defendants are held in. He echoed their claims of sleep deprivation and that there are deliberate noises and vibrations in the camp as well as strange chemical smells used to pressurize the prisoners. He called it “mental torture”.
Abu Zubaydah, who has not been seen other than by his CIA and military torturers and captors since 2002, was also supposed to give evidence. He allegedly came to the door but was turned back and the hearing set for another date as the lawyers asked for an adjournment when Abu Zubaydah’s lawyer objected to the incriminating questions put to Guleed. The prosecution lawyer asked questions about Guleed’s involvement with terrorist organisations in East Africa even though he had no legal representation, was not on trial or facing one and the questions were not relevant to his testimony in court. The two men were asked to testify by the defence lawyers of one of the 5 defendants to show that the conditions under which they are held make it difficult for them to contribute effectively to the proceedings.
At the same hearing the next day, a former prison commander claimed that Guleed’s claims were not true and that the prisoners had not been tormented by guards or subject to torture. Instead, he said that Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh, who had made the accusations of noise and sleep deprivation and asked other prisoners to testify, had made over 90% of complaints in Camp 7 when he was in charge there. When asked why these complaints were not investigated, he said they were not considered credible.
Lawyers for Al-Shibh also requested that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez be granted permission to come and inspect the camp conditions for himself. He was invited to join a media tour of Guantánamo in 2012 but refused as he would not have full access to prisoners and facilities. The lawyer made an application for him to visit and be given fuller access in May. Lawyers for the men have said that Mendez may accept just to be given access to Camp 7 where the defendants and other high value prisoners like Abu Zubaydah and Ahmed Guleed are held.

Nine prisoners had their status reviewed to consider whether they can be cleared for release by the periodic review board, bringing the number of prisoners who have had their cases reviewed to 50 in total.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the last Mauritanian prisoner and best-selling author of Guantanamo Diary had his hearing on 2 June. His counsel stated that if released he would want to return to his family in Mauritania, start a business, and promote his book if he is allowed to travel. Ould Slahi has been described as a compliant prisoner and even a former prisoner guard wrote a letter in support of his release. Representatives from the Mauritanian Embassy attended with the media at the unclassified parts of the hearing.
On 7 June, Moroccan prisoner Abdul Latif Nasir had his review hearing. The US military simultaneously alleges that he was a seasoned fighter for various extremist groups and a member of a non-violent mystical Islamic group in Morocco focusing on spiritualism. Nasir was not captured but purchased for a bounty by the US military which was vague about how he was captured and the dates and locations of the many places he is alleged to have fought in. Nasir wants to return to Morocco and would get work through his family there.
Abdul Zahir, a 44-year old Afghan who the US says it “probably misidentified” was the third prisoner to have his review hearing on 9 June. He arrived at Guantánamo in October 2002 after having being captured in a raid: “The supposed chemical or biological agents that U.S. forces seized during the raid turned out to be salt, sugar and petroleum jelly.”
http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/06/09/probable-case-of-mistaken-id-recounted-for-gitmo-board.htm
Another Afghan prisoner, Haroon Al-Afghani, held at Guantánamo since June 2007 had his hearing on 14 June. The US military claims that he worked with various militant groups and the Taliban in Afghanistan and even launched attacks on the US and its allies but has never charged him.
Saudi prisoner Mohammed Al-Qahtani, whom the US has admitted torturing, “including severe sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, violence and other sadistic interrogation methods carried out for weeks,” had his hearing on 16 June. Having tried to enter the US in August 2001, the United States alleged he was the 20th bomber for the September 2001 attacks. His lawyers, however, painted a picture of a man with severe mental health issues, going back to his childhood, which have been greatly worsened. Charges brought against him early on were dropped when it was realised that all the evidence came from the torture he had been subject to. His lawyers argued for him to be sent home to Saudi Arabia where he can receive adequate care for his psychiatric issues. In a statement, they said, “Filings made before the Periodic Review Board disclose, for the first time, that from an early age al Qahtani suffered from schizophrenia, major depression, and possible traumatic brain injury. He was mentally ill not only prior to his imprisonment and torture at Guantánamo, but also long before the government claims he was invited into the secretive, closely-guarded 9/11 conspiracy. Records independently located by the Center for Constitutional Rights show that al Qahtani was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in Mecca in May 2000 because he suffered an acute psychotic break and attempted to throw himself into moving traffic. Saudi police once found him naked in a garbage dumpster, and he heard voices and suffered other classic symptoms of psychosis throughout his adolescence. A psychiatric expert’s report, based on the hospitalization records, other investigative work, and many hours of examination of al Qahtani, was filed with the Review Board as well.
Russian prisoner Ravil Mingazov had his hearing on 21 June. While the US presented him as having military training from Russia and having been involved with Islamist groups in Tajikistan, his lawyers explained he had a non-combat role (and was not trained) in the army and was trying to seek asylum in Tajikistan. He does not wish to return to Russia where his family has been persecuted and hopes to come instead to the UK where his wife and children have successfully sought asylum.
Ghassan Abdullah Al-Sharbi, a Saudi prisoner who is a qualified engineer from the US and Saudi Arabia, had his hearing on 23 June. He has been non-compliant and chose not to attend and did not meet with his representative.
Yemeni Musab Omar Ali Al-Mudwani, 36, had his review hearing on 28 June. Described as a low-level militant and compliant prisoner, he would ideally like to return to Yemen which is currently barred by the US administration.
Yemeni prisoner Hail Aziz Ahmed Al-Maythali had his hearing on 30 June.
In addition, four prisoners who have already had reviews learned the outcome in June: only one, Afghan Karim Bostan, 46, was cleared for release. Three other prisoners – 2 Yemenis and a Kenyan – were deemed to remain too dangerous to release by the arbitrary administrative board whose decisions are not based on law.

Former Guantánamo prisoners Belgian Moussa Zemmouri and Algerian Soufian Abar Huwari went on trial for a week in Brussels from 13 June on alleged terrorism charges related to a burglary in Antwerp, the proceeds of which the Belgian authorities claim would have gone to fund terrorism in Syria. Neither man was charged at Guantánamo or had been until their arrest in Belgium last year.
In Spain, following his arrest in 2014, for allegedly running a terrorist cell linked to the war in Syria, former prisoner Lahcen Ikassrien went on trial on 20 June along with others who are co-accused. Due to his Guantánamo imprisonment and as the alleged ringleader, the Spanish prosecutor asked for a longer sentence for him. He was never charged at Guantánamo and did not come to the attention of the authorities after his 2005 release until his arrest. However, shortly before his 2014 arrest, Spanish prosecutors said they would be willing to start a case into the torture he and other former prisoners claim they suffered in US detention.

Extraordinary Rendition:
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that following its 4-year investigation it will not be pressing criminal charges against officials, including former foreign secretary Jack Straw, for British collusion in the rendition to torture of Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, who was pregnant at the time, from Southeast Asia to Libya in 2004. There will be no prosecutions in the case.
Following this decision, the matter was discussed in parliament – concerning what the intelligence services knew and disclosed – on 29 June and a call by a number of human rights organisations to hold a judge-led inquiry into the UK’s involvement in extraordinary rendition and CIA torture was dismissed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
On 8 June, the European Parliament passed a new non-binding resolution calling on Member States to investigate their role in extraordinary rendition and more the Parliament to conduct more fact-finding missions.

Sabrina de Sousa, a former CIA agent convicted in absentia by an Italian court along with colleagues for her role in the 2003 rendition of Milan-based cleric Abu Omar lost her fight against extradition from Portugal to Italy after the Portuguese Supreme Court rejected her claims. It is likely that she will have to go to Italy to hear her sentence but that she will be able to serve it in Portugal. She claims she was only an interpreter and had nothing to do with the torture Abu Omar has faced. Although she did not ask him, he has asked the Italian authorities to pardon her. She asked Hilary Clinton for help but that was not given. It is the only case anywhere in the world where CIA agents have been found guilty of torture under the extraordinary rendition programme. Facilitating torture is also a crime against humanity and a war crime.

In response to a freedom of information filing made by the American Civil Liberties Union, the CIA has released 50 new documents that shed considerable light on the extraordinary rendition programme. The full documents can be viewed through a link at:

Guantánamo prisoner Mustafa Al-Hawsawi who claimed he was held at a secret CIA-run prison in Lithuania has had “victim status” denied which would grant him greater protection and more access to information as part of an ongoing investigation. The Lithuanian authorities claim there is no proof that any such torture facility was run in the country but will not allow a full and impartial investigation to go ahead at the same time.

On 29 June, two cases were heard at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against Lithuania (brought by Abu Zubaydah) and Romania (brought by Abd Al-Nashiri) for the torture they suffered at secret CIA-run facilities in these states. Lawyers for Al-Nashiri told the court that the CIA had paid Romania millions of dollars to run such facilities. The Lithuanian government remains in denial about its role.

LGC Activities:
The June Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 2 June. As it coincided with the periodic review board hearing of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a special “Free Slahi” demo was held outside the US Embassy with readings from Guantánamo Diary. A similar but much larger protest was held outside the US Embassy in Mauritania on the same day. The July demonstration is on 7 July at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch: https://www.facebook.com/events/320814844916185/

The LGC marked UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June with a special “Borders of Torture” solidarity vigil in Trafalgar Square focusing on the refugee crisis. Many refugees are survivors of torture. This year's theme was “support life after torture” and so activists from the LGC put together a clothesline with “bloody” t-shirts and a banner stating “Don’t hang torture survivors out to dry”. Read our report here:

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 http://pastebin.com/zpx5F7ab which is updated weekly with the latest information and tweets to raise awareness about Guantánamo. Please join us online if you can!