41 Attorneys from the Cincinnati Area Call on Donald Trump to Close Guantánamo

Campaigners from Witness Against Torture and other organizations call for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the prison's opening.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Last week, 41 attorneys from the Cincinnati area, in Ohio, wrote a column for the Cincinnati Enquirer calling for Donald Trump to close Guantánamo. Founded in 1841, the paper is the last surviving daily newspaper in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, and is traditionally regarded as a a conservative, Republican-leaning newspaper.

Nevertheless, on August 26 it gave space to the 41 lawyers, including some who have represented Guantánamo prisoners over the 16 long years of the prison’s history, for them to argue that the 41 men still held at Guantánamo should either be freed or charged and tried in federal court.

It’s a position that I agree with, as regular readers will know, and it’s reassuring to see so many lawyers come together to make such a definitive statement in the face of Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that the prison is, as the lawyers describe it, “a great shame that hangs over the American legal system.”

Imagine if, across the country, thousands and thousands of lawyers got together to repeat this message, and to send it out through regional and national media.

I’d love to see it happen, and the lawyers themselves close their column by stating, “Join us in calling on bar associations, elected officials and fellow citizens in closing this awful stain on our legal system and our country,” but in the meantime I’m delighted to cross-post their article, in the hope that it gets out to interested parties who may have missed it. 

The article notes that, because the US Constitution applies at Guantánamo, the men should be freed or tried, because “[o]ne bedrock principle of due process is that extended detention without affording a trial for the individual is illegal.”

However, as they also make clear, the trial system established at Guantánamo — the military commissions — is irredeemably broken, as the experiences of one of their number, Rick Kammen, lay bare. Kammen worked on the commissions as a defense lawyer until he was obliged to resign because, fundamentally, the government was spying on the defense teams, and there was no effective way of challenging them.

I hope you have time to read the article, and will share it if you find it persuasive — and if you can help with getting or lawyers on board, let’s do it! If 41 lawyers can do this in Cincinnati, one for each prisoner still held, we surely ought to be able to get 5,000 lawyers across the country to say to Donald Trump, “No more! Close Guantánamo now!” — or perhaps, more appropriately, 6,081 lawyers, one for each day Guantánamo has been open.

Due process: Guantánamo detainees should be released
By Robert Newman and Michael O’Hara, the Cincinnati Enquirer, August 26, 2018

There is a great shame that hangs over the American legal system: the injustice of the Guantánamo detainees. Today, 41 Muslim men remain at Guantánamo. Thirteen have cases in the military commission system. The remainder have been held for up to 16 years without charges filed against them. Five of these have been cleared for transfer, meaning that the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies have agreed that they pose no security threat. Many of the 41 detainees have been tortured at either CIA “black sites” or at Guantánamo itself.

President George W. Bush released 532 detainees by the end of his second term, and President Barack Obama released 197 and sought to close Guantánamo, but was prevented by congressional action. Nine detainees have died since the prison opened, several by suicide. Now President Donald Trump has vowed that he would “absolutely authorize” torture techniques such as waterboarding on the grounds that terrorism suspects “deserve it,” and that he would fill Guantánamo back up with “bad dudes.”

Since the United States claims Guantánamo Bay pursuant to a 1903 lease authorizing a naval station and coaling station which later became a “perpetual lease,” the U.S. Constitution extends to this property and its inhabitants. One bedrock principle of due process is that extended detention without affording a trial for the individual is illegal.Sixteen years is beyond any shred of due process. Even a year cannot be justified. For this reason, all 41 detainees should be released.

Yet there are other reasons for the releasing of the detainees. Two of them, Toffiq Al-Bihani and Abdul Latif Nasser have been approved for transfer to other countries who are willing to receive them. Their continued detention is senseless and punitive.

Twenty-eight of the detainees have not even been charged. How can someone be imprisoned with no trial, no judgment of guilt and no charges? Such conduct by our government and military courts utterly betrays the constitutional promise of due process. Honoring this fundamental principle would demand immediate release of these unconstitutionally detained individuals.

Some commentators have suggested the that military commissions should be allowed to continue and that some or all of the detainees should be tried before these commissions. A criminal defense attorney from Indianapolis, Richard Kammen, spent nine years assisting with the defense of Abdul Rahim Al-Nashiri, a Guantánamo detainee charged with involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole. Al-Nashiri was charged in 2003. He has yet to be tried.

At the 2018 Kentucky Bar Annual Convention, Kammen described how it became impossible to provide meaningful legal representation due to restrictions imposed by the military commissions that offend the principles of due process we as Americans take for granted. He described how guards confiscate privileged legal materials from the cells of the detainees and how the military prosecutors read defense counsel’s correspondence to their clients.

The commander of the prosecution issued an order requiring military officials to review all legal correspondence between defense counsel and their clients, and counsel who refuse would not be allowed to visit their clients. Kammen and his colleagues discovered that the rooms in which defense counsel had been meeting with their clients for years were wired with microphones disguised as smoke detectors.

The government also intruded into defense counsels’ emails. In 2013, it was discovered that the FBI had recruited an informant on a defense legal team. When the military judge prohibited Kammen and his legal team from informing their client of concerns about attorney-client confidentiality on grounds that would result in disclosing classified information, Kammen decided that he could not ethically continue to represent his client, as he was prevented by our government and the military courts from providing constitutionally adequate representation. Thus, he was ethically compelled to withdraw.

Moreover, these same military commissions have denied detainees any effective opportunity to challenge the government’s use of detainees’ confessions that were obtained through torture and “enhanced interrogation” methods that would never survive scrutiny in any court in the United States. Counsel for detainees have been denied access to evidence relating to the circumstances under which confessions were obtained.

The government and military commissions have done this under the shadowy rubric “national security” or protection of “classified information.” Everything about the conduct of these military commissions is antithetical to the fundamental principles of the right to effective assistance of counsel and to a fair trial, rights that have long since been embedded in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to our Constitution.

It should be obvious to any lawyer or jurist that trials comporting with due process are not possible with military commissions. To the extent that the government can provide any justification for detaining anyone, those people should be brought to American soil and tried in federal courts. The government is reluctant to do this because of the scrutiny that would necessarily focus on statements obtained from the detainees by the most brutal forms of interrogation yet devised.

This is not American justice. This is not America. We are lawyers, and we are deeply offended by the injustices of Guantánamo. Join us in calling on bar associations, elected officials and fellow citizens in closing this awful stain on our legal system and our country.

This column was jointly written by the following 41 Cincinnati-area attorneys: Robert B. Newman; Michael J. O’Hara; Timothy M. Burke; Nora Dean Burke; Louis H. Sirkin; Nicholas J. DiNardo; John L. Heilbrun; William R. Gallagher; Joseph J. Dehner; Maurice O. White; Alphonse A. Gerhardstein; Richard Ganulin; Stephen R. Felson; Marc D. Mezibov; Kathleen M. Brinkman; Lisa T. Meeks; Elizabeth Asbury Newman; John Woliver; Richard Boydston; Elizabeth A. McCord; John D. Holshuh, Jr.; Sherri Goren Slovin; Phyllis G. Bossin; Barbara J. Howard; Peter L. Cassady; Michael T. Mann; David S. Mann; William A. DeCenso; Erin M. Heidrich; Mark W. Napier; Noel M. Morgan; Matthew W. Fellerhoff; Amanda R. Toole; Joseph H. Feldhaus; Lucian J. Bernard; Terence D. Bazeley; Carrie H. Dettmer Slye; Carla L. Leader; Danielle C. Colliver; Elaine J. Fink; James B. Robinson; and Amy L. Detisch.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

Abdul Latif Nasser’s Story: Imagine Being Told You Were Leaving Guantánamo, But Then Donald Trump Became President

A recent photo of Guantanamo prisoner Abdul Latif Nasser, as taken by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and made available to his family.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

“Close Guantánamo” has recently been on vacation, a short break punctured only by the latest episode in our ongoing photo campaign — 6,050 days of the prison’s existence, on August 4, and photos marking this latest bleak anniversary, featuring opponents of the prison’s continued existence.

Donald Trump doesn’t care, of course. While the president who set up Guantánamo (George W. Bush) eventually conceded it had been a mistake, and while his successor (Barack Obama) said he would close it but didn’t, Trump is an enthusiast for keeping it open, seems to care nothing about the law, would reintroduce torture and send new prisoners to Guantánamo if he could, and clearly has no intention of releasing anyone from the prison at all, even though five of the 40 men still held were approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama.

Three of the five had their release approved by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that Obama set up shortly after first taking office in 2009 to advise him on what to do with the 240 men he had inherited from George W. Bush (he was recommended to release 156 men, to try 36 and to continue to hold 48 without charge or trial), and two had their release approved by the Periodic Review Boards that subsequently reviewed the cases of 64 prisoners from the latter two categories from 2013 to 2016 on a parole-type basis. Read the rest of this entry »

A “Cluster Covfefe”: Guantánamo Prisoner Majid Khan’s Damning Verdict on the Shambolic Military Commissions

Guantanamo prisoner Majid-Khan, photographed at Guantanamo in 2009 by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

To the US political, military and intelligence establishment, Guantánamo prisoner and “high-value detainee” Majid Khan — held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for three years, where he was subjected to water torture and another horrible form of torture, “rectal feeding” — is a dangerous convicted terrorist, but to anyone who takes an interest in the man himself, Khan, a Pakistan citizen who spent six years in the US as a teenager, graduating from a high school in Maryland, is a reformed character, who has cooperated fully with the authorities, and ought to be regarded as having paid his debt to society, and to be able to resume his life. 

To some extent, the authorities have accepted Khan’s transformation. Over six years ago, in February 2012, they arranged a plea deal whereby, as the Miami Herald explained in September 2016, he “pleaded guilty to serving as a courier of $50,000 linked to the Aug. 5, 2003, terrorist truck bombing of a Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, that killed 11 people and wounded dozens of others,” and “also admitted to agreeing to be a suicide bomber in an unrealized plot to murder former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.”

By pleading guilty, and also by agreeing to cooperate with the authorities in forthcoming military commission trials — and, specifically, the 9/11 trial, involving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks — it was agreed that, on sentencing, he would be required to serve a further 13 years. Read the rest of this entry »

Really? Trump Lawyer Argues in Court that Guantánamo Prisoners Can Be Held for 100 Years Without Charge or Trial

Protestors with Witness Against Torture outside the Supreme Court on January 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Last Wednesday, as I flagged up in a well-received article the day before, lawyers for eleven of the 40 prisoners still held at Guantánamo finally got the opportunity to follow up on a collective habeas corpus filing that they submitted to the District Court in Washington D.C. on January 11, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison. The filing, submitted by lawyers from organizations including the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Reprieve on behalf of 11 of the remaining 40 prisoners, argued, as CCR described it after the hearing, that “their perpetual detention, based on Trump’s proclamation that he will not release anyone from Guantánamo regardless of their circumstances, is arbitrary and unlawful.”

CCR added that the motions of eight of the 11 men were referred to Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan, who heard the argument today”, and stated that the lawyers had “asked the judge to order their release.”

CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy, who argued the case in court, said after the hearing, “Our dangerous experiment in indefinite detention, after 16 years, has run its course. Due process of law does not permit the arbitrary detention of individuals, particularly at the hands of a president like Donald Trump, who has pledged to prevent any releases from Guantánamo. That position is based not on a meaningful assessment of any actual threat, but on Trump’s animosity towards Muslims, including these foreign-born prisoners at Guantanamo — the height of arbitrariness. Short of judicial intervention, Trump will succeed.” Read the rest of this entry »

Tomorrow, Lawyers Will Argue in Court That Donald Trump’s Guantánamo Policy Is “Arbitrary, Unlawful, and Motivated by Executive Hubris and Anti-Muslim Animus”

Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the District Court in Washington, D.C. and a photo of prisoners at Guantanamo on the day of the prison's opening, January 11, 2002. Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

It’s a big day for Guantánamo tomorrow, as lawyers for eleven prisoners still held at the prison will be arguing before Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan in the District Court in Washington, D.C. that, as the New York-based Center for Constitutonal Rights describe it, “[Donald] Trump’s proclamation that he will not release anyone from Guantánamo regardless of their circumstances is arbitrary, unlawful, and motivated by executive hubris and anti-Muslim animus.”

The lawyers submitted a habeas corpus petition for the men on January 11 this year, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison, as I explained in an article at the time, entitled, As Guantánamo Enters Its 17th Year of Operations, Lawyers Hit Trump with Lawsuit Stating That His Blanket Refusal to Release Anyone Amounts to Arbitrary Detention.

As I also explained in that article, “The eleven men are: Tawfiq al-Bihani (ISN 893) aka Tofiq or Toffiq al-Bihani, a Yemeni who was approved for release by Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force in 2010, Abdul Latif Nasser (ISN 244) aka Abdu Latif Nasser, a Moroccan approved for release in 2016 by a Periodic Review Board, a parole-type process, and nine others whose ongoing imprisonment was upheld by their PRBs: Yemenis Zohair al-Sharabi aka Suhail Sharabi (ISN 569), Said Nashir (ISN 841), Sanad al-Kazimi (ISN 1453) and Sharqawi al-Hajj (ISN 1457), Pakistanis Abdul Rabbani (ISN 1460) and Ahmed Rabbani (ISN 1461), the Algerian Saeed Bakhouche (ISN 685), aka Said Bakush, mistakenly known as Abdul Razak or Abdul Razak Ali, Abdul Malik aka Abdul Malik Bajabu (ISN 10025), a Kenyan, and one of the last men to be brought to the prison — inexplicably — in 2007, and Abu Zubaydah (ISN 10016), one of Guantánamo’s better-known prisoners, a stateless Palestinian, for whom the post-9/11 torture program was initially conceived, under the mistaken belief that he was a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda.”

On January 18, as I explained in a follow-up article, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (who ruled on several Guantánamo habeas corpus cases before the appeals court gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the prisoners) responded, “requiring the government to explain its Guantánamo policy with respect to the men now petitioning the court,” as Scott Roehm, the Washington Director of the Center for Victims of Torture, explained in an article for Just Security, adding, “Specifically, the judge ordered the government to provide the following information by Feb. 16.”

In response, as I explained in another article, the government claimed that, because “the laws of war permit the detention of enemy combatants for the duration of a conflict,” the petititoners “are not entitled to release simply because the conflict for which they were detained — the non-international armed conflict between the United States and its coalition partners against al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces — has been lengthy.”

Lawyers for the prisoners then responded by stating, “The government’s opposition proceeds as if the continuing detention of Petitioners for up to 16 years without charge or trial and without prospect of release by the Trump administration is utterly normal. It is not normal — as a matter of fact and law,” and further explaining that “the government cannot dispute the Trump administration’s stated determination to foreclose any transfers, regardless of individual facts and circumstances — including of those Petitioners cleared for transfer,” and that “there is no legal support for perpetual detention of this sort,” and that “[p]erpetual non-criminal detention violates due process.”

Revisiting these arguments, CCR stated, in a press release a few days ago, “The government maintains that the continuing detention of our clients without charge or trial, and without a prospect of release, is normal. But it is not normal, as a matter of fact and law. We argue that the petitioners’ perpetual detentions violate the Due Process clause of the Constitution and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). These ‘forever prisoners’ may never leave Guantánamo alive, unless the court intervenes.”

Reporting on the case, the Guardian explained that, unfortunately, the prisoners “will not be allowed to listen to oral arguments at their own hearing, as the Guantánamo administration said there [was] no single room at the camp where they could all be put in restraints while listening to a live feed,” adding that the court “accepted the absence of a room big enough for all the petitioners to be shackled to the floor as a valid reason for them not to hear a direct broadcast of their hearing, and that a recording or transcript at a later date was an adequate substitute.”

The Guardian then discussed the case of Tawfiq al-Bihani, who is represented by Reprieve, one of the organizations involved in the habeas petition, describing how he is “a Saudi-born Yemeni who was arrested in Iran in 2002, where he had fled bombing in Afghanistan,” and who “was flown back to Afghanistan and ultimately transferred to the US authorities.”

The Guardian added that, “According to his lawyers, he was handed over for a price, at a time when bounties were paid for bearded Arabs caught in the region around Afghanistan,” and, “According to the Senate Intelligence committee[‘s torture report, whose executive summary was made public in December 2014], he was taken to a CIA ‘black site’ secret interrogation centre, where he was one of 33 inmates subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ before being flown to Guantánamo.”

The Guardian also noted that al-Bihani “was cleared of any involvement in terrorism by US intelligence agencies in January 2010 and given his release papers on three occasions,” and, in 2016, “was even measured for new clothes he was going to wear on being freed, but his release was cancelled at the last minute.”

The Guardian also explained how the Trump administration “has continued to hold him citing ‘a variety of substantive concerns relevant to [his] circumstances, including factors not related to [Bihani] himself,’” prompting al-Bihani himself to ask, “What good is having a court case when there is no hope of justice?” according to his lawyers. He added, “I am still sitting here. Hearing about my court case just gets my hopes up, and my emotions go up and down like a see-saw. I’m happier without the meetings.”

Speaking of the prisoners’ exclusion from their own hearing, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis of Reprieve told the Guardian, “This latest affront to fairness and justice should shock every American, but sadly it doesn’t surprise us. None of the men Reprieve represents has ever been charged with a crime, and two have been cleared for transfer, but they remain stuck in Guantánamo, apparently indefinitely. That the US government now claims they can’t safely be chained to the floor, to hear their own lawyers argue that they should be tried or released, is the latest sick twist in a shameful saga with no end in sight.”

As the Guardian also explained, al-Bihani “has passed his 15 years on Guantánamo writing poetry and has more recently began painting in acrylics,” as his lawyers explained, adding that he also “watches wildlife documentaries, plays football and is following the World Cup.” The lawyers also explained that he is from “a family of 12 siblings,” and that his mother died during his long imprisonment.

“I am able to see the ocean here,” al-Bihani said to his lawyers, adding, “When I feel upset, seeing the ocean helps me go into a trance and deal with my emotions. I have not lost hope, but I got used to the rhythm here. It is the first place I have lived for this long. Before, at home, I was always moving.”

The Guardian also explained how Reprieve has pointed out how ruinously expensive it is to keep prisoners at Guantánamo, stating that “every day al-Bihani spends in Guantánamo costs the US $29,000. Altogether, it has cost more than $170m to keep him in the camp without charge.” On the mainland, in contrast, it costs only a little more than $29,000 to hold a prisoner for an entire year.

In its publicity before tomorrow’s hearing, CCR focused on their client Sharqawi Al Hajj, described as “a 43-year-old Yemeni who has been detained without charge for over 16 years, who is sick and on hunger strike, and for whom the prospect of years more in Guantánamo may mean a death sentence.”

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

No Escape from Guantánamo: An Update on the Periodic Review Boards

Four Guantanamo prisoners whose cases are still nominally being reviewed by Periodic Review Boards. Clockwise from top left: Omar al-Rammah, awaiting a decision in his review after 16 months, and Khalid Qasim, Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani and Uthman Mohammed Uthman, who all had their ongoing imprisonment upheld after reviews this year.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Regular Guantánamo-watchers will know how wretched it is that Donald Trump is in charge of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, because he appears to have no ability or willingness to understand that it is a legal, moral and ethical abomination, where most of the 40 men still held are imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial, in defiance of all agreed laws and treaties, and a handful of others are facing trials in a broken trial system, the military commissions, that is not fit for purpose.

Under George W. Bush, a total of 532 prisoners were released from Guantánamo, and Barack Obama released another 196. Trump, to date, has released just one man, a Saudi repatriated for ongoing imprisonment, who was only released because of a plea deal he had agreed to in his military commission proceedings in 2014, and has shown no interest in releasing anyone else, even though five of the 40 men still held were approved for release by high-level review processes under President Obama. With only nine men facing trials, that also leaves 26 other men in that unjustifiable limbo of indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial.

The only mechanism that exists that theoretically could lead to the release of any of these men is the Periodic Review Board system, the second review process set up by President Obama. The first, the Guantánamo Review Task Force, assessed in 2009 whether prisoners should be freed or tried or whether they should continue to be held without charge or trial. 156 were recommended for release, and 36 for prosecution, and 48 for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial, on the basis that they were regarded as too dangerous to release, but insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Lawyers for Guantánamo Torture Victim Mohammed Al-Qahtani Urge Court to Enable Mental Health Assessment and Possible Repatriation to Saudi Arabia

Mohammed al-Qahtani, in a photo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011. Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Last Thursday, lawyers for Mohammed al-Qahtani, the only prisoner at Guantánamo whose torture was admitted by a senior official in the George W. Bush administration, urged Judge Rosemary Collyer of the District Court in Washington, D.C. to order the government “to ask for his current condition to be formally examined by a mixed medical commission, a group of neutral doctors intended to evaluate prisoners of war for repatriation,” as Murtaza Hussain reported for the Intercept. He added that the commission “could potentially order the government to release him from custody and return him home to Saudi Arabia, based on their evaluation of his mental and physical state.”

A horrendous torture program, approved by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was developed for al-Qahtani after it was discovered that he was apparently intended to have been the 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks. As Hussain stated, court documents from his case state that he was subject to “solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, extreme temperature and noise exposure, stress positions, forced nudity, body cavity searches, sexual assault and humiliation, beatings, strangling, threats of rendition, and water-boarding.” On two occasions he was hospitalized with a dangerously low heart rate. The log of that torture is here, and as Hussain also explained, “The torture that Qahtani experienced at Guantánamo also exacerbated serious pre-existing mental illnesses that he suffered as a youth in Saudi Arabia — conditions so severe that he was committed to a mental health facility there in 2000, at the age of 21.”

The high-level acknowledgement of al-Qahtani’s torture, mentioned above, came just before George W. Bush left office, when Susan Crawford, the convening authority for the military commission trial system at Guantánamo, told Bob Woodward, “We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture.” She was explaining why she had refused to refer his case for prosecution. Read the rest of this entry »

In Guantánamo Habeas Corpus Case, Lawyers Insist That Trump’s Stated Intention of Not Releasing Any Prisoners Renders Their Imprisonment “Perpetual” — and Illegal

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and a photo of the prison at Guantanamo Bay on the day of its opening, Jan. 11, 2002.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

On January 11, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, lawyers for eleven of the 41 prisoners still held submitted a habeas corpus petition to the District Court in Washington, D.C., arguing, as a press release by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights put it, that “[Donald] Trump’s proclamation against releasing anyone from Guantánamo, regardless of their circumstances, which has borne out for the first full year of the Trump presidency, is arbitrary and unlawful and amounts to ‘perpetual detention for detention’s sake.’”

CCR’s press release also stated that the lawyers’ filing “argues that continued detention is unconstitutional because any legitimate rationale for initially detaining these men has long since expired; detention now, 16 years into Guantánamo’s operation, is based only on Trump’s raw antipathy towards Guantánamo prisoners – all foreign-born Muslim men – and Muslims more broadly.” The lawyers added that “Donald Trump’s proclamation that he will not release any detainees during his administration reverses the approach and policies of both President Bush and President Obama, who collectively released nearly 750 men.”

In an article marking the submission of the habeas petition, I explained that the eleven men whose lawyers submitted the petition are “Tawfiq al-Bihani (ISN 893) aka Tofiq or Toffiq al-Bihani, a Yemeni who was approved for release by Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force in 2010, Abdul Latif Nasser (ISN 244) aka Abdu Latif Nasser, a Moroccan approved for release in 2016 by a Periodic Review Board, a parole-type process, and nine others whose ongoing imprisonment was upheld by their PRBs: Yemenis Zohair al-Sharabi aka Suhail Sharabi (ISN 569), Said Nashir (ISN 841), Sanad al-Kazimi (ISN 1453) and Sharqawi al-Hajj (ISN 1457), Pakistanis Abdul Rabbani (ISN 1460) and Ahmed Rabbani (ISN 1461), the Algerian Saeed Bakhouche (ISN 685), aka Said Bakush, mistakenly known as Abdul Razak or Abdul Razak Ali, Abdul Malik aka Abdul Malik Bajabu (ISN 10025), a Kenyan, and one of the last men to be brought to the prison — inexplicably — in 2007, and Abu Zubaydah (ISN 10016), one of Guantánamo’s better-known prisoners, a stateless Palestinian, for whom the post-9/11 torture program was initially conceived, under the mistaken belief that he was a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda.” Read the rest of this entry »

Stunning Victory as US Court Rules That Contractors’ Treatment of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib Constituted “Torture, War Crimes, and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment”

An image of the crucified figure from Abu Ghraib that I found on a 2009 Uprising Radio page.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

It has taken ten years, but on Wednesday (February 21), a US judge, District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, ruled that “the treatment of three Iraqi individuals formerly detained at the infamous ‘hard site’ at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq constitutes torture, war crimes, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, based on a thorough review of US domestic and international law.”

The victory was described in a press release by the Center for Constitutional Rights, who, with other lawyers, first submitted the case ten long years ago, under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which “allows non-US citizens to sue for violations of international law committed abroad that ‘touch and concern’ the United States. I wrote about it back in September, when Judge Brinkema allowed the case to proceed.

As I also explained at the time:

In the long legal journey to this important day, as CCR stated, “the Fourth Circuit denied CACI’s attempt to have the case dismissed under the ‘political question’ doctrine” in October 2016, and in June this year the District Court “affirmed that war crimes, torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are well-recognized and definable norms and thus fall within the court’s jurisdiction” under the Alien Tort Statute. The court then “ordered both parties to brief whether the record supports a finding that the plaintiffs suffered these violations,” and, as CCR noted, “Shortly after, CACI moved to dismiss the case,” the move that has just been turned down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Lawyers Urge International Criminal Court to Investigate US Torture Program

An image produced by AMICC (the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court), which advocates for US participation in the ICC. The image was produced in 2016, in an article about the ICC's possible investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, including those in which US forces were involved.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Ever since evidence first emerged of the US’s post-9/11 torture program — most conspicuously, via the photos of abuse in Abu Ghraib that were revealed in 2004, and the network of CIA “black sites” that were first revealed in the media in late 2005 — opponents of torture have sought to hold accountable those responsible for implementing torture in its various forms: in the CIA’s global network of “black sites,” in proxy prisons in other countries, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at Guantánamo.

Their efforts have persistently been thwarted. President Obama, notoriously, used the “state secrets doctrine” to prevent torture victims from having their day in the US court system (check out the Jeppesen case in 2010, for example), and, earlier that year, after an internal Justice Department investigation into John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who wrote and approved the notorious “torture memos” of 2002 that purported to re-define torture so that it could be used by the CIA, concluded that they were guilty of “professional misconduct,” the Obama administration allowed a DoJ fixer to override that conclusion, deciding instead that they had merely exercised “poor judgment.”

In December 2014, an important step towards the truth came with the publication of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA’s post-9/11 detention program (the Senate torture report, as it is more colloquially known), which delivered a devastating verdict on the program, even if it was not empowered to hold anyone accountable. And last August, there was good news when James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, former military psychologists who had developed the torture program for the CIA, settled out of court — for a significant, but undisclosed amount — with several survivors of the rendition and torture program, and the family of another man, Gul Rahman, who had died in Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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