Friday, May 29, 2015

LGC Newsletter – May 2015



BRITISH RESIDENTS:
On 19-20 May, a delegation of four British MPs – Jeremy Corbyn (Labour), Andy Slaughter (Labour), Andrew Mitchell (Conservative) and David Davies (Conservative) – from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Shaker Aamer travelled to the US to raise awareness of the plight of the last British resident in Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer, who has been held there without charge or trial for over 13 years. During the intense two-day visit, meetings were held in Washington between the MPs and the British Ambassador, the Special Envoy for the Closure of Guantanamo, Ambassador Paul Lewis from the Pentagon, acting Special Envoy Charles Trumbull from the State Department. They held discussions with influential Senators and attorneys including John McCain (Rep. Arizona), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Joe Manchin (Dem, West Virginia), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Bill Monahan, senior  counsel to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Patrick Leahy, (Dem. Vermont), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein (Dem, California), Chair and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Dick Durbin, (Dem. Illinois), Chair and Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. US officials were informed of concerns and interest in the UK in the case and popular support for Shaker Aamer to return to his family here, as well as MPs raising the fact that the continued detention of Aamer, in spite of repeat requests from the UK for his return, is undermining the special relationship between the two states.

Funding for the delegation was made possible through efforts by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, including a day-long ‘cage’ action in Trafalgar Square on 16 May, which raised both funds and awareness.

Following similar media reports in April, on 27 May, Shaker Aamer’s lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith from Reprieve reported on BBC radio that he had been informed by various US officials that Shaker Aamer could be released within weeks and could be reunited with his family as early as June. However, similar reports by officials have been made in the past and did not materialise.

NEWS:
Guantánamo Bay:
On 1st May, in an unusual step, the US government won a military commission appeal which means that the conviction of former Sudanese prisoner, Ibrahim Al-Qosi, who was convicted in 2010 and returned to Sudan in 2012 after serving his sentence, remains intact. In a short judgment, judges dismissed the appeal as his lawyer lacked jurisdiction as she did not have his permission to represent him in the appeal. The military commission court had however denied her application for funding to travel to Sudan to get his permission to do so. One of his convictions – for material support for terrorism – has since been successfully appealed by others. This is only the second of seven sentences handed down by the military commission court that remains intact.

It is not just the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay that US military staff bully and abuse. Although no one has been charged or convicted for the abuse of prisoners, in mid-May, Staff Sgt. Dustin A. Barker from Scott, Kentucky was found guilty of ‘hazing’ -humiliating and intentionally physically abusing - Marines at Guantánamo in 2013. In one incident he ordered one marine to punch another so hard that he urinated blood. He was found guilty of the charges and demoted in rank.

A retired Supreme Court judge has called for some prisoners to be compensated for having knowingly been held illegally by the US. He said that prisoners who continue to be detained after being cleared for release should be given reparations as the US knows that they do not pose a threat to it.

Having won the right to be bailed by a Canadian court in late April, Omar Khadr’s hearing at which his bail term would be heard was delayed from Tuesday 5 May to Thursday 7 May, as there was an election being held in the state of Alberta. On Thursday, the judge agreed to generous bail terms while Khadr appeals his military commission conviction in the US and dismissed an appeal against bail by the Canadian government. Leaving the court, it was the first time Khadr has walked through a door pushed by him and freely in almost 13 years. He is currently living with the family of his lawyer Dennis Edney QC in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He spoke to the press on the evening of his release and was the subject of a documentary – the first time he has been able to speak to the press – that was aired on Canadian television on 28 May and will be repeated on Al Jazeera in early June.
On 14 May, in a further victory, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that – while detained – Omar Khadr should be treated as a juvenile and not an adult offender. Now bailed, the ruling in moot but was brought by his lawyers to have removed to a provincial correctional facility rather than a federal penitentiary.

On 19 May, four former prisoners accepted as refugees in Uruguay who had held a protest outside the US Embassy in the capital Montevideo demanding extra support and that the US gives them reparations for holding them illegally for 13 years struck a deal with Uruguayan government negotiators. The deal, which is not much of a real improvement on the original deal offered to the men, will see them receive rent for their own homes, assistance in finding jobs and learning Spanish and a small monthly stipend to cover their basic needs. Since arriving in the country at the end of last year, the six men who are all torture survivors and in need of rehabilitation, have all struggled. They were given a flat to share but wanted privacy. They were offered menial jobs, such as working as fruit pickers, even though the jobs were sometimes difficult to get to and difficult to carry out given their physical health. In addition, the men were seeking to bring their families to the country – four of the men are from Syria and their families are still in the war-torn country – but the small wages they will receive in addition to the stipend will not be sufficient to do this. As proof that the men are eager to adapt to their new surroundings and to get on with their lives, local Uruguayan media has reported that two of them will be getting married to Uruguayan women at the beginning of June.

Asim Thabit Abdullah al-Khalaqi, 47, a Yemeni prisoner held without charge or trial at Guantánamo for over 12 years and released to Kazakhstan at the end of 2014, died on 7 May. He is reported to have been in poor health and died of kidney failure. It is reported that poor medical care at Guantánamo may have contributed to his death.
 
Extraordinary Rendition:
Prosecutors in Scotland investigating the use of airports in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Prestwick and Aberdeen for CIA torture flights have submitted a request to the US authorities to receive a complete and unredacted version of the Senate torture to help its inquiries.

LGC Activities:
The LGC May Shut Guantánamo demonstration was attended by 9 people. We were joined by the family of American prisoner in Iraq Shawki Ahmed Omar. The June demo will be on Thursday 4 June: https://www.facebook.com/events/1612696089007212/

Friday, May 08, 2015

Media release: London Guantánamo Campaign congratulates former Guantánamo child prisoner on his release on bail from Canadian prison



Protesting Omar Khadr's military commission in 2010
For immediate release: Friday 8 May 2015

Activists from the London Guantánamo Campaign [1] welcome the release on bail, in Canada, of Canadian former Guantánamo child prisoner Omar Khadr [2] on Thursday 7 May, under strict conditions [3]. This is pending his appeal of his 2010 conviction for war crimes, obtained through a secret plea bargain in the widely-discredited Guantánamo military commission procedure.

As the only person since World War II to be tried as an adult for offences alleged committed as a minor before a military tribunal , the London Guantánamo Campaign has always maintained that Omar Khadr is a child soldier and should never have been subject to such proceedings, let alone held at Guantánamo Bay.

The London Guantánamo Campaign has campaigned consistently for his release since he became the first Guantánamo prisoner to be charged and brought to trial before the revised military commissions system under President Obama in 2009. Our activities for Omar Khadr have included:
·         holding the only demonstration in solidarity with his case when his military commission was ongoing in 2010,
·         speaking on a special panel about his case at Amnesty International UK in 2012 [4],
·         highlighting his plight as part of events to mark 11 years of Guantánamo Bay in early 2013,
·         and in conjunction with a number of organisations and universities in the UK and the Free Omar Khadr Now Campaign, hosting a speaking tour with his lawyer Dennis Edney QC in March 2014 [5] to raise awareness of his case beyond Canada .

Aisha Maniar, organiser from the London Guantánamo Campaign, says, “Omar Khadr is the boy who became a man at Guantánamo Bay. His case, particularly given the vulnerabilities presented by his age at the time, demonstrates some of the worst brutalities wantonly committed in the name of the so-called War on Terror. The actions of the Canadian government since 2002 also highlight the proactive role the US’s allies have played in flouting international law and committing human rights violations.
Protesting Omar Khadr's military commission in 2010


“We welcome Omar Khadr’s release and congratulate him on what is truly a historic day for justice and everyone who fights for it. The fight to clear his name in the US courts continues and we will continue to support his quest for justice. We believe that it is only a matter of time before his conviction is quashed, as in the case of other former prisoners; evidence procured through torture and conjecture cannot provide the basis for any conviction, let alone a war crimes conviction. We look forward to the day that Omar Khadr is fully vindicated.”

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     
2. For more details on Omar Khadr’s case, please visit www.freeomar.ca

Thursday, April 30, 2015

LGC Newsletter – April 2015



BRITISH RESIDENTS:


In mid-April, media reports, mainly in the Washington Post and The Independent, stated that British resident Shaker Aamer is likely to be released in June along with two other prisoners who have long been cleared for release, Moroccan Younis Chekkouri and Mauritanian Ahmed Ould Abdel al-Aziz.
This comes as part of reported plans to release at least 10 cleared prisoners in the coming weeks and all of the 57 prisoners cleared for released before the end of 2015.
However, the Miami Herald reports that no steps have been taken to start the release procedure for any prisoners, which takes at least one month. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article19346010.html
In March, a Foreign Office junior minister told a House of Commons debate about Shaker Aamer that he still has to undergo security clearance prior to being approved for release. In 2009, the Obama administration cleared him for release only to his native Saudi Arabia, but he has insisted, as has the British government, that he be returned to the UK where his family lives. Although the media has reported Aamer may be released soon, there has been no indication that his release will be to the UK.
The reported desire to step up the release of prisoners comes ahead of a vote on a bill tabled earlier in the year by Senator Kelly Ayotte to prevent the transfer of any more of the 122 remaining prisoners before a new US president takes office in 2017. President Obama has said he would use his power of veto to block this bill if passed.

Former British resident, 36 year old, Jamal Kiyemba, was arrested in Kampala, Uganda, on 8 April, along with several other men suspected of murdering Prosecutor Joan Kagezi who was shot dead on 30 March ahead of the start of a trial into bombings allegedly by Al Shabab in 2010. Kiyemba, who had grown up in the UK, was released from Guantánamo in 2006. He was to be released to the UK; however he was refused entry and was sent to Uganda instead, where he was born. He was not arrested on charges of involvement in the murder of Ms Kagezi but on unspecified and unrelated charges. The US authorities were involved in the swoop which led to the arrests. There has been no further information since as to whether he has been released or charged. Held at Guantànamo for 4 years, Mr Kiyemba was never charged or tried there.

NEWS:
Guantánamo Bay:
Four of the six prisoners released to Uruguay last year as refugees have been holding a sit-in protest outside the US Embassy in Montevideo since 24 April demanding financial assistance from the US. The four, two Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian, were accepted by the country as refugees and are receiving some aid in that capacity. However, they feel it is not enough and is only being provided for one year and have demanded that the US take responsibility for their situation after having imprisoned them for 12 years without charge or trial and effectively turning them into refugees. The Uruguayan authorities have asked the men to sign documents so that they can receive the assistance they are entitled to, however the men went to the US Embassy on Friday and when they were told that no one would be there until Monday continued their protest. They are demanding to meet officials from inside the embassy and want the US to take responsibility for them.
In a statement the men released on Sunday 26 April, they stated that the US authorities “can’t leave their errors to other people, they should help us with houses and financial support. We think that it is the least they could do.
Earlier in the month, Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez demanded that Obama gives the former prisoners financial assistance when he met him at the Americas Summit in Panama. Aid and housing is being provided by the UNHCR.

Pre-trial hearings in two separate military commissions at Guantánamo Bay have been cancelled indefinitely. The case of 5 men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York has been cancelled for the third time this year.
Nonetheless, with respect to one of the defendants, Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, on 10 April, the judge released a judgment refusing to order medical care for him, stating he did not have the power to do that. According to the Miami Herald, “While held at CIA secret prisons, he was subject to torture that amounted to rape and as a result has caused him long-term physical problems and continued bleeding, for which he has yet to receive adequate treatment, more than a decade later. When making the request in February, it was the first time his lawyers had spoken about the torture he suffered, following the release of the redacted Senate CIA torture report. His lawyer “specifically cited a reference to an investigation of allegations that CIA agents conducted medically unnecessary rectal exams with excessive force on two detainees, one of them Hawsawi, who afterward suffered an anal fissure, rectal prolapse and haemorrhoids.””

In the case of Abd Al Nashiri, accused of involvement in an attack on a US navy vessel in the Gulf of Aden, off Yemen, in 2000, the case has been adjourned pending two appeals in his case and an MRI scan, although the necessary machinery is not available at Guantánamo. If an MRI scan proves he has brain damage, he may be spared the death penalty.
On 29 April, following a request by his lawyers in March, the military commission judge refused to allow the full US Senate report into CIA torture to be disclosed to his lawyers. The public part of the report shows that Al Nashiri was waterboarded but his lawyers want further evidence of what he suffered at the hands of CIA interrogators when he “disappeared” for several years into CIA secret prisons in Asia and Europe.

Abdul Shalabi, 39, a Saudi prisoner who has been on hunger strike for the past 9 years and is alleged to have been a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden, had his periodic review board hearing on 21 April. He asked to be sent home.

According to information given by a prisoner to lawyer David Remes, at least 14 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are still on hunger strike and are being force fed by nasal feed on a regular basis.

On 24 April, Alberta federal judge June Ross granted former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr bail pending the outcome of his appeal in the US of his military commission conviction there. A further hearing will be held on 5 May to decide the terms of his bail. His lawyer Dennis Edney QC has already offered him accommodation and a university in Edmonton, Alberta, has offered to allow him to enrol as a mature student. The Canadian government, however, has said that it will appeal this decision. For Khadr, this will be the first time since he was 15, in 2002, that he will be outside of a prison environment. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/omar-khadr-granted-bail-but-federal-government-to-appeal-1.3046775

Extraordinary Rendition:
As part of an ongoing investigation into torture flights passing through and refueling at Scottish airports, police in Scotland have said there is inconclusive evidence to say prisoners were on board any of the six flights under investigation, ruling out this line of investigation.
The investigation will continue, however some say that the police have not been thorough   enough in their investigation. Police in Scotland have demanded access to the full CIA torture report to help in their investigations.

LGC Activities:
The LGC April Shut Guantánamo demonstration was attended by 3 people. The May demo will be on Thursday 7 May: https://www.facebook.com/events/950220665011369/

Aisha Maniar from the LGC gave a presentation to the St John’s Amnesty Group in Camden Town about Guantánamo Bay and extraordinary rendition on 16 April.

Monday, March 30, 2015

LGC Newsletter – March 2015



BRITISH RESIDENTS:
Shaker Aamer’s case was subject to a backbench debate in parliament, which activists have been calling for since at least 2013, on 17 March. During the debate on his plight, the motion ‘That this House calls on the US Government to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK’ was passed and a number of MPs made strong, clear statements about Shaker Aamer’s ongoing plight. However, junior Foreign Office (FCO) minister Tobias Ellwood speaking on behalf of the FCO did not answer questions about why Shaker Aamer is still in Guantánamo Bay, what the British government is currently doing or where negotiations stand between the US and British governments. Instead, he prevented any useful debate by putting down the answers to being “intelligence matters” he could not share with the MPs in public.
On the same day, through redacted documents obtained through freedom of information requests in the US, Shaker Aamer’s lawyers at Reprieve obtained documents showing that US officials discussed sending him back to Saudi Arabia while giving assurances to the UK government at the same time.
To coincide with the debate, a day of action was held with Amnesty International delivering a petition calling for Shaker Aamer’s release and return from Guantánamo to the UK, signed by over 40,000 people
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign held a colourful demonstration in Parliament Square and before lunchtime a rally was held inside parliament with speeches by MPs such as Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn and by campaigners including Andy Worthington and Dr Dave Nicholls who delivered the Amnesty petition. The debate and rally were attended by Shaker Aamer’s three sons and other family members. He has never met his youngest son.
More on this day of action:

The cross-party parliamentary group for Shaker Aamer met twice in March. It now has over 40 members, since being set up by John McDonnell MP in November 2014, from all parties. It is currently planning a delegation to visit the US after the general election in May.

NEWS:
Guantánamo Bay:
On 9 March, the US Supreme Court dismissed two appeals by Guantánamo prisoners. In the first case, a Syrian-Kurd Abd al-Rahim Abdul Razak al-Janko, whose release was ordered in 2009 and had been captured while being held prisoner by the Taliban, had his appeal to sue the US government for unlawful detention and torture dismissed and a 2014 judgment in favour of the US government upheld, stating that he cannot sue the US for damages. In the second case, Saudi prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani, who is still held at Guantánamo, lost a case brought on his behalf by the Center for Constitutional Rights for photos and documents of his torture to be released and made public. The reason was that their disclosure would harm “national security”.

Although the case of five prisoners alleged of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York has been adjourned until 20 April, on 10 April, in the case of one prisoner, Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, Judge James Pohl, overseeing the case, released a two-page order stating, following a request by his defence team, that the court cannot intervene to order medical care for him. While held at CIA secret prisons, he was subject to torture that amounted to rape and as a result has caused him long-term physical problems and continued bleeding, for which he has yet to receive adequate treatment, more than a decade later. When making the request in February, it was the first time his lawyers had spoken about the torture he suffered, following the release of the redacted Senate CIA torture report. His lawyer “specifically cited a reference to an investigation of allegations that CIA agents conducted medically unnecessary rectal exams with excessive force on two detainees, one of them Hawsawi, who afterward suffered an anal fissure, rectal prolapse and haemorrhoids.

On 5 March, Yemeni Saeed Sarem Jarabh, 36, became the latest prisoner to be cleared for release by the periodic review board, bringing the total number of prisoners held but who have been cleared for release to 58 out of 122 remaining prisoners. However, the administrative extra-legal review board ruled that his compatriot Khaled Qasim was not cleared due to his non-compliant behaviour at Guantánamo. A new review has been scheduled for 6 months’ time.

Omar Khadr, who is currently held at the medium-security Bowden Institution in Innisfail, Canada, had a bail hearing on 23-24 March in Edmonton. His lawyers have applied for bail pending the outcome of his military tribunal conviction appeal in the US and his lawyer Dennis Edney QC and his wife Patricia have offered to take Omar into their own home. Questions about security and legality were raised in the case which is the first of its kind anywhere, where bail is applied in the enforcement of a sentence handed down in another country. If successful, lawyers for Khadr and the Canadian government will return to court to agree bail conditions. The judge reserved judgment and did not give an indication of when she is likely to make her decision. The hearing was very well attended by supporters of Khadr, so much so proceedings were moved to a larger courtroom. Omar Khadr attended on both days too.

Extraordinary Rendition:
The US military released 43 Pakistani prisoners from Bagram this year, who have all now returned home. Only 6 foreign nationals remain there, in US detention - two Tunisians, two Tajiks, an Uzbek and an Egyptian. Their fate will be decided by the Afghan authorities. It is not clear why they remain detained. The identities of the six men have been confirmed by the US.

On 20 March, a federal judge ordered the release of over 2000 photographs showing the US military abusing prisoners, including at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The US government has 60 days to appeal and had previously argued that the disclosure of the images could put US military personnel at risk.

LGC Activities:
The LGC March Shut Guantánamo demonstration was attended by 4 people. The April demo will be on Thursday 2 April: https://www.facebook.com/events/680328588755840/