Thursday, September 29, 2016

LGC Newsletter – September 2016

Guantánamo Bay:

In early September, the US military announced that it had closed the notorious maximum security Camp 5 at Guantánamo on 19 August. The camp, built in 2004 for $17 million, was used to house non-compliant prisoners and hunger strikers, often in solitary confinement. A small number of prisoners who remained at the camp were transferred to Camp 6 which now holds around 40 prisoners, over half of whom are cleared for release. The US military plans to refurbish the camp and turn it into a medical centre, proving that there are no plans to close the detention facility. The closure of the camp means that staff numbers have been downsized too, by around 400 less staff, or around 1500 personnel to monitor 61 prisoners.

On 8 September, all initial periodic review board hearings for prisoners not cleared for release or subject to trial were completed. Hearings were held in September for Pakistani prisoner Mohammed Ahmad Rabbani on 1st September, whom some sources falsely claimed was due to be released. Wrongly assumed to be an Arab, as he is fluent in Arabic, he was arrested in his native Pakistan and arrived at Guantánamo in 2004. He is still on hunger strike and while his lawyers claimed during the hearing that he would like to return to his family in Pakistan if released, the US military claimed he would like to be sent to Malaysia.
The final initial hearing was held for Saudi Hassan Muhammad Ali Bin Attash, the youngest prisoner held at Guantánamo, aged 33, on 8 September. The US military claims he was a facilitator and weapons expert for Al Qaeda. It also stated that he had been non-compliant with the guards at Guantánamo. His counsel reported that he has always been found to be a pleasant person and that he is interested in studying and receiving an education upon release; he would like to be returned to Saudi Arabia.
Decisions were made in the cases of several prisoners who had their review hearings in August. The board decided that Afghan prisoner Muhammad Rahim should remain detained largely due to the threat he poses to the USA based on intelligence he may have about possible risks to the USA in 2001 and due to his refusal to admit any complicity and relationship with Al Qaeda. The board also decided to continue the detention of Malaysian prisoners Mohd Farik bin Amin and Bashir bin Lap and Libyan Mustafa Faraj Muhammad Masud al-Jadid al-Uzaybi. It is worth noting that all four men were subject to the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme; Muhammad Rahim was the last person to enter it in 2004. All have been severely tortured in various ways, including physical, sexual and psychological torture, at secret CIA facilities in different countries for years prior to their arrival at Guantánamo. The US thus does not have an interest in releasing individuals who could disclose sensitive information about the torture and torture experimentation they have suffered at the hands of the US authorities.
The initial review has so far seen 23 prisoners determined to pose a continued threat to the US on a non-legal and arbitrary basis. The next set of – second round – full review hearings are due to commence on 18 October with Yemeni prisoner Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi.

A three-day pre-trial hearing was held on 6-9 September in the military commission of Abd Al-Nashiri, accusing of bombing a US naval ship in the Gulf of Aden in the 1990s. This follows an 18-month break as the federal appeals court ruled in August not to halt the military commission as it has jurisdiction to hear the case and that any issues on the legality of proceedings could be appealed after judgment is made in the case by the military court; the trial is unlikely to start for a few more years. Various pre-trial issues of legality of the case and the composition of the defence and prosecution, which has changed in the interim 18 months, were discussed. Al-Nashiri’s lawyers said they would appeal the August ruling.

A brief hearing was held on 13 September for Majid Khan, who following three years of torture at secret CIA facilities, entered a secret guilty plea in 2012, the only previous time he appeared in court, amid charges of helping to finance a 2003 terrorist attack in Indonesia. Sentencing under the plea deal, which will see him serve a 19-year sentence, is due to take place in 2018. However, since his guilty plea (which is not a confession) evidence has emerged of the extreme torture he faced and the legality of some of his guilty pleas has been challenged, undermining the deal made - the appeals court has since ruled some of the charges illegal. The hearing was held to allow Khan to withdraw his guilty plea of providing material support for terrorism which is not an offence. Further challenges may be brought against his case and the plea deal made, although this could be more prejudicial to Khan.

Former Guantánamo prisoner and Syrian refugee in Uruguay, Jihad (Abu Wa’el) Dhiab has been on hunger strike since 12 August demanding he is sent to an Arab country or Turkey where he can be reunited with his family whom he has not seen for over 15 years. He was returned to Uruguay from Venezuela at the end of August. On 1st September, he refused to ingest liquids and was twice hospitalised and fell into a coma. He has since agreed to take liquids as the Uruguayan authorities look for a country that will accept him and his family. Turkey, where his refugee family is, and two Arab states have refused to take the whole family. Dhiab was promised family reunification by his lawyers and the Uruguayan authorities when he was released but it has never happened in spite of repeat demands.
The LGC has launched a petition and urgent action for him:

Arrested in Madrid in 2014, former Guantánamo prisoner Moroccan national and Spanish resident Lahcen Ikassrien was sentenced to 11 and a half years by a Spanish court for terrorism recruitment to a cell allegedly supporting the Islamic State militant group and falsification of documents.

LGC Activities:
The September Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 1 September. The October demonstration is on 6 October at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch:  

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016


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


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


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:

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

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.
    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.
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.

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:

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